Oh dear. Irritation would be the better title. Okay, I’ll admit it- its the kids. They were driving me NUTS. The youngest has a cuddly toy which you just know is going to be left behind at the most inopportune moment and cause a trip back into danger to go back for it, the eldest daughter is a sulky teen who seems to live in an elevator until all hell breaks loose and the screaming starts. Actually, I would imagine the casting process basically involved a line-op of budding child actors asked to scream and cry on-camera on request. Shed enough tears and scream and cry until you go purple and and chances are you’ve got the gig.
Coupled to the children from hell are the stupidest adults I’ve recently witnessed onscreen. Even the nominal hero of the film, Peter (Michael Pena) is pretty dumb throughout- maybe that’s an attempt at realism on the screenwriter/directors part, because lets face it, people are generally stupid, and tend to panic under stress, but hey, we’ve all seen plenty of alien invasion movies, haven’t we? When an alien invasion force comes out of the sky with searchlights stabbing at windows for signs of life, and starts shooting the shit out of anything they see that moves, you don’t stand there gawping out of the panoramic window for ages, right? I mean, you’d also head for ground level too once you saw the rest of the city in flames, you wouldn’t head for the roof to find that, once there, there is nowhere else to go except, er, down.
Okay, I should cut the film some slack. Its maybe refreshing, even, to see people doing stupid stuff and being generally useless at fighting aliens. I probably would if not for those bloody kids.
So anyway, the premise is fine for a movie that is actually more Twilight Zone than Independence Day. Peter, an engineer, is having trouble sleeping. He keeps having nightmares that are fairly apocalyptic and its effecting his marriage and his work, where anything seems able to trigger a waking ‘vision’ (a desk lamp flickers the wrong way and boom he’s back in Doomsday). It gets so bad he’s walking out at night and he sees lights moving in the sky and no-one else can see them. Is he going crazy?
Just when the jury is in and he’s destined for a visit from the bug-squad, the sky lights up late one evening and an alien invasion force arrives, blasting the shit out of everyone that moves and laying waste to the city. So Peter’s visions were of the future, somehow?
So the majority of the film becomes a family Die Hard/Irwin Allen disaster flick, with Peter having to get his family and some freinds to safety (thankfully Peter’s wife is an architect or planner on the council and knows about some tunnels hidden beneath the city). They of course have to get past homicidal aliens and through the ruins of the building and the city plaza beyond and somehow keep the wailing hysterical kids quiet for more than five minutes.
There is, thankfully, a mildly diverting twist that sort of explains much of what precedes it and almost saves the film. But by then the execution of it all has just sunk it. I won’t go into that twist for the sake of it spoiling the film for anyone who hasn’t yet watched it, but if you’ve seen any of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone’s you’ve probably seen something much like it before.
Not the best Netflix Original then, but likely not the worst either. I would just note an observation that, again, the film ends in a fairly open-ended manner just begging for a sequel (although perhaps not quite so abruptly as the ironically-titled How It Ends), which is either mirroring how theatrical releases seem to be structured these days, particularity blockbusters, or that the origins of this project lie in the television series arena.