Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Skyline": helping Roger Corman improve with age

Skyline had an impressive trailer, but once you pay for you ticket, you realize that every bit of impressive imagery and special effect was in the ad. The movie , a bone bare variation of The War of the Worlds, has the most flat-line scripts of the year; the dialogue lacks even the campy elan of a choice Roger Corman picture.
Corman , King of the B Movies when he was the lead exploitation director and producer for American International Pictures, at least winked to the audience about how silly his horror and science fiction plots were; one need only remember the serial coffee house bus buy / Beat artist wanna be /serial killer in the director's goony masterpiece Bucket of Blood as he keeps uttering "Art is a hitchhiker catching a ride on the omnibus of art". This is said by the schlep several times, adding a comic jargon to the bizarre series of murders that occur through the movie. Corman's signature in his minimalist absurdities was his willingness to dive without flinching straight into the grungy strands and strains of pop culture without flinching, concieve  a rickety plot  device concerning Aliens, Alienated Teens, marginalized personalities a mere nervous laugh away from a kitchen knife homicide, a monster in a hairy mask going crazy in the halls of an unmonitored girl's dormiotory--and make a fast bit of   oddness that both amused amd distrubed; I always had the feeling that I was both the sophisticated viewer laughing at what was conspicuously idiotic, and that I was additionally the one with the abbrevidated interests that made exploitaters like Corman a success. This is to say  that his movies remain compelling after the shock value has worn off; Corman may well have been the premiere  American  Film Expressionist. After a time YOU get the feeling of what phrases and rationalizations might be cycling through the mind of a psychopath as he or she attempts to complete their obsessed missions in the world. The special effects, of course, are impressive to a degree, but you realize before long that that was the film maker's highest priority. "Skyline" has an an attractive veneer and can boasts some artfully composed images, but it is a sober minded, without a relief laugh, a monotonous series of sudden stops and starts meant to startle. We are merely annoyed.
The most glaring consequence in emphasising a few well tweaked effects is that the characters remain in a static situation--trapped in a pricey high rise condominium by convincingly repulsive aliens-- and that characters remain static as well. There are some attempts to bring some complexity to the character lives, with issues of infidelity and love vs individual survival filtered lightly through the inane banter , but none of this adds dramatic tension; all there is left to do is observe one character after another get gobbled up by alien creatures, watch the population of Los Angeles get lifted , Rapture like, to a serrated edged alien vessel, to wait for a surprise ending that's more dead end than brutal revelation.