Just to prove that the United States and China aren’t the only nations that can produce a jingoistic alien invasion flick, Russia has given us The Blackout, wherein an alien invasion blacks out power over the entire planet, except for a circle centered around Moscow.
From screenwriter Ilya Kulikov and director Egor Baranov, The Blackout follows a small group of Russian soldiers as they try to stave off the invasion and keep Moscow safe. This flick didn’t have much of a budget, but Baranov and company still managed to put together a film with an expansive plot and some decent explosions here and there. Look closely, and one will notice how few real locations there really are, but that’s not worth bothering about, especially with all the other shit thrown a viewer’s way.
The main focus, if this scatterbrained flick can be said to have a focus, is on Oleg and Yuriy (Aleksey Chadov and Pyotr Fyodorov), a pair of world-weary soldiers who are on the front lines of the invasion. The filmmakers also crammed in some love interests for the pair, in TV journalist Olga (Svetlana Ivanova) and army doctor Alyona (Lukerya Ilyashenko). It’s these four that garner most of the screen time, so potential viewers should be prepared for some poorly written romance. The good news is, all that nonsense is on the periphery. What this movie is really about, is throwing every plot idea they had against the wall and seeing what sticks.
In just the first half hour of this 127-minute long film, viewers are treated to an almost worldwide blackout, mysterious mass death inside the blackout zone, a man in black, a killer bear horde, and psychics who may or may not be in touch with the alien invaders.
But, wait. There’s more.
As the film goes on there are: Food riots! Propaganda! Montages! Turncoat aliens! Zombies with AKs and rocket launchers! Allusions to the extraterrestrial origins of the Egyptian Pyramids and Atlantis! A big twist! And, finally, the strangest orphanage in the universe.
This is a movie that, despite a bloated running time, still didn’t have enough room for its plot. That’s probably because this film began life as a series for Russian television, but had to be scaled back into this gibbering mess of a sci-fi flick.
By the time the fiftieth or so massive gunfight happened, I was overwhelmed. The film had fallen into the trap of being so busy that it was becoming tedious. It did manage to hold my attention until the climax, but after that, the damn movie just refused to end. If Baranov and company could have found a way to shove another gun battle into the movie at this point, I’m sure they would have, but they decided to be merciful and let their audience go to bed.
Besides all the plot silliness and discount CGI, shitty movie fans can look forward to aliens with faces only Roy Brown Jr. could love, lots and lots of gratuitous exposition (it may explain things, but if exposition could be excised from a movie and make no difference to the outcome, then it is gratuitous), and such fantastic dialogue as, “Here, when you’re at death’s doorstep, food tastes different. And I would say the same goes…for sex.” And, “I’m what you’d call an alien. But, I’m on your side.” This was a script that was begging for a Tarantino punch-up. He could have added a monologue from Oleg where he explains how all Soviet-era films were about anal sex, then Yuriy burns out an alien’s eye with a cigarette. That’s how punch drunk this film left me. I wanted even more piled on top and I didn’t care if any of it was good. Watching this film was like eating at a casino buffet.
The Blackout is silly and stupid, and everyone involved seemed to know. That’s why the filmmakers chose to go with an assault on the senses, and on reason. Baranov went all-in on a relentless pace in the hopes that a viewer would not have the opportunity to scrutinize anything too closely. That didn’t work out all that well, but there are many, many worse shitty movies one could spend an evening with. I rank The Blackout at #208 in the Watchability Index, displacing Chernobyl Diaries.