Blackout, The (2009)

The Blackout (2009)

When the lights go out…the feeding begins.

It’s Christmas Eve in Los Angeles and a series of power outages and minor earthquakes have been causing some mild concern for residents. But that’s not putting off the tenants of the Ravenwood apartment block who are celebrating Christmas. But when a group of revelers is attacked inside their apartment by a mysterious creature, the night takes a turn for the worst. It turns out that these creatures live in the dark and drain energy from lights when they’re nearby. The residents group together in an attempt to find a way out of the building.

 

The Blackout starts off with good intentions and has a decent post-apocalyptic feel to it but it’s just let down by generic execution. Following the standard template of ‘people trapped in a confined space with monster(s) loose’ to a tee, The Blackout isn’t going to win any awards for originality. Frankly, with films like this it’s simply become a case of how badly someone can mess up the formula or whether they try and do anything different with it. Still, a slender eighty minutes, the film never really outstays its welcome.

The Blackout has some glaring problems, not least by having too many characters in the film. Granted the field does get thinned out quite regularly but still, there are too many similar-looking people hanging around waiting to die. It’s easy to set apart the Peter Jackson look-alike and the children but the rest of the characters are too non-descript to distinguish. The script doesn’t focus on one of the characters and turn them into the hero or heroine, instead giving more people stuff to do. Too much time is spent in the opening thirty minutes giving almost everyone a back story. It shouldn’t make much difference to the film’s narrative but when some of (who we believe will become) the main characters are killed off early on, it begs the question of whether that time would have been better spent on characters who would have survived until the end. It also doesn’t help matters that the acting is lousy overall, with no standouts at all.

However, despite the best efforts of the script to create issues, the film is not without merit. There are some effective sequences of the creatures attacking people in apartments and stairwells and the final ascent up the elevator shaft provides a high level of suspense, even if the effects are sub-par. The fact that no one really knows what is going on either just adds to the intrigue. Not only have these creatures appeared but strange rock structures are bursting out of the ground as well. Coupled with the power cuts, there is a higher story arc playing out behind the mayhem in this apartment block and it’s an arc which makes everything seem more futile.

Unfortunately, despite the power cuts in the film, it’s still bright enough almost everywhere in the apartment block that you get to see the creatures in all of their splendour. Whilst I’m all for the use of practical effects and guys-in-suits or animatronics, it’s clear that there’s a fine line between having decent enough creatures to show off to the audience and keeping any weaknesses hidden from them. These creatures are on screen a lot and not only do they lose any menace that they would have had being confined to the darkness, they also look pretty rubbish the more you see of them. You get a good look at them way too early in the film as well which leaves nothing left to your imagination for the rest of the running time. As per usual for low budget releases, the creature bears an uncanny resemblance to HR Giger’s classic creation from Alien. But the mixture of live-action and CGI effects doesn’t really mesh together well enough. The film doesn’t go into much detail regarding the creatures – no explanations of what they are, where they came from, what they want, etc.

Much like the similarly-presented Feast, the emphasis is not so much on the what or the why but the fact that they’re here and they’re dangerous. And dangerous they are, slicing and stabbing everyone with their scorpion-like tails in showers of blood, both real and CGI whenever the situation dictates. The final shots of the film will either infuriate you with the nerve of the writers to include such a daring conclusion or stun you with their boldness. For me, the latter is definitely the case and I liked the doomed tone of that last scene which improved the film dramatically. The adventure has not finished for the survivors!

 

The Blackout is paint-by-numbers monster movie making at its most predictable. A few decent ideas are dwarfed by the rehash of a lot of plagiarised ideas. Ambition seems to have been held back by budget or unwillingness to experiment with the formula and that’s a pity. Probably worth a watch for hardcore monster movie enthusiasts but for anyone else, there are far better examples out there.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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