Call it Cloverville. Or maybe Bloverfield. Whatever the case, the science-fiction thriller Skyline falls squarely—and a little endearingly—into the Roger Corman tradition of cheap cash-ins on popular hits. It’s Cloverfield without the multiple-camcorder hook, stocked with good-looking D-list actors who are generally sixth- or seventh-billed in TV shows. Normally, such things go straight to DVD or the outreaches of cable, but brothers Greg and Colin Strause are FX wizards by trade, and they stretch every dollar of their exceedingly modest budget into $5 of effects. Sadly, they’re significantly less skilled at working without pixels: The Strauses ran the Alien and Predator franchises further into the ground with their debut feature, Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, and Skyline reveals a similar inattentiveness to developing characters or gleaning something, anything, fresh from stock situations.
That guy from Six Feet Under (Eric Balfour)—you know, the tall, skinny one with the drug problems—stars as one of a group of hotbodies convening in a Los Angeles penthouse for a birthday party. In the middle of the night, a series of beams of blue light shoot down from the sky, prompting many to fall into a hypnotic state and get beamed aboard a mothership hovering above the city like the one in District 9. The situation worsens when alien beings of various shapes and sizes fan out across the city and vacuum up the few remaining stragglers. Trapped in the penthouse, Six Feet Under guy, his pregnant girlfriend (Scottie Thompson), three other random good-looking people, and that guy from Dexter (David Zayas)—you know, the earnest one with the slight speech impediment—try to figure out how to escape their impending doom.
For those who turned green over Cloverfield’s shaky-cam aesthetic, Skyline is there with the Dramamine: The Strauses, working from a script by Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell, borrow the idea of witnessing an alien invasion from a fixed perspective, but treat it with slick conventionality. It isn’t clever. It isn’t original. It isn’t scary. At best, Skyline is a proficient, forgettable programmer that only occasionally lapses into irredeemably silliness, like when it makes a plea for the transcendent power of love. Mostly, it’s just a break in the natural order of things, a rare opportunity to forget a B-movie knockoff in theaters before forgetting it on DVD.