Directed by the Strause brothers on a shoestring budget of around $10 million (less than most A-list actors’ salaries), Skyline is a mish-mosh of virtually every sci-fi movie you’ve ever seen. It’s equal parts Independence Day, Cloverfield, and District 9, with a frequently-laughable screenplay and mostly-hammy acting.

Despite all that, there were a few seconds there that Skyline almost made it through the mess and emerged as a campy soon-to-be-classic. While first-times screenwriters Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell fall into a lot of familiar clichés, they also (refreshingly) break a few rules: one of the lead characters is killed off pretty early on, and there’s no time wasted on a backstory about why the aliens are here or who these humans are that are trying to fight them.

Skyline jumps right into the action, starting with huge columns of blue light flashing down from the sky over Los Angles. When people look directly into the light, the blood vessels in their face turn a lovely shade of navy blue, and then they get sucked away, gone forever.

Flashback to “fifteen hours earlier”, and we learn that Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his lady friend (Scottie Thompson) are visiting L.A. to see his old buddy Terry (Donald Faison). There’s an all-night party in Terry’s high-rise apartment, and then we’re right back to where we started—blue lights, people getting sucked up, blood vessels…

Dawn breaks, and our five heroes (Terry’s girlfriend and a random photographer have joined the fun) are staring out the window at a fleet of alien ships. So Terry and Jarrod decide to go up to the roof (of all places) armed with a camera and a handgun (of all things), where they notice in the distance that the mothership is sucking people by the thousands into its metal belly. Of course (wouldn’t you know it) Jarrod let the door to the roof close behind them, so now there’s no way back inside. (Cue the alien scout probe floating nearby.)

Skyline continues along these lines for the better part of an hour, and surprisingly, it’s okay, largely because the special effects alone are worth the price of admission). Yes, there are a couple of idiotic moments (all of Western Civilization is under attack and Terry’s girlfriend decides it’s time for a chat about their relationship), but by and large, there’s nothing terrible about Skyline. It’s a decent, campy thrill-ride masquerading as a $100 million movie.

And then we get to the end.

I won’t spoil anything—but just when you think the movie’s over, and you’re relishing the fact that the ending’s a bit unconventional, it keeps going for another inane five minutes, all the name of the sequel that’s already in production.

My advice? Enjoy the campiness, roll your eyes a little, and if you leave when you see the white light, the blood vessels in your face won’t explode.

2.5/5 stars