DVD Review: The Blackout (2009)

Directed By Robert David Sanders
Starring Barbara Streifel Sanders, Joseph Dunn and Ian Malcolm



It’s Christmas Eve in L.A. and it’s unfortunately neither Die Hard nor a Shane Black film. An apartment building high rise is home to a lively party of young dysfunctional go-getters, while down the hall the Pierce family are settling down to dinner. Festivities are cut short, however, when tremors and quakes begin to rock the city and the power soon flickers out. The darkness brings with it a battle for survival as a species of bloodthirsty, subterranean nasties burrow up through the earth and pop out in the basement.

You know a film’s off to a bad start when the first “shocking reveal” of its monsters are what appear to be kids’ toy remote control armadillos. Thankfully, more fearsome foes shamble along later, though unfortunately they’re also a combination of half-priced Halloween costumes and CG rendered using technology from 1993. Things take a downward spiral from there as we’re subjected to bickering stock characters borrowed from a Z-grade daytime soap opera played by actors who just flunked their first semester of drama school.

Interpersonal conflict is the dramatic through-line of any ‘trapped in close quarters’ story, as evidenced by the gut-wrenching human drama skilfully offered up by similar monster movie The Mist. But The Blackout isn’t even within miles of the quality of that film, dramatically or otherwise, and never finds anything worthwhile, coherant or entertaining for its characters to say or do. When a film’s braindead cast of universally unlikeable morons spend 30 minutes engaging in an endless cycle of tedious arguments about whether to brave the hallway stairs or not (conveniently forgetting the building has a fire escape), it’s just a chore to endure.
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The Blackout’s narrative is a cacophony of baffling, half-written nonsense. Parents send their child alone to explore a dingy, darkened basement to retrieve their Christmas present(!). Monsters somehow emit an elecromagnetic field which kills the city’s power, but only causes flashlights to flicker dramatically. The opening act is half spent setting up that the nerdy agoraphobic has a ham radio and a hand-held which “may work on the roof!”. Said radios are never used or mentioned again. An elevator explodes when it falls to the bottom of the shaft. Because elevators in L.A. are constructed from C4.

A guest at the party somehow brought a gun (with bulky light attachments) along, despite wearing a tight-fitting shirt, tailored pants and having no place to conceal a weapon. It’s suddenly just there in his hand, pulled from non-existence as if a magic pencil-wielding hand descended from the sky to draw it in like a Daffy Duck cartoon. He later pulls out another handgun of equal size. Where did they emerge from? Considering the limited options for a man to hide things on their person, it’s probably best not to ponder…

I could go on. What’s worse is that while it’s a monumentally stupid film, it never crosses over into the realms of being dumb enough to laugh at. Never attaining the ‘so bad it’s good’ badge of B-movie honour, The Blackout is just a shoddily-constructed, boring, tiresome slog to sit through. Populated with indistinguishable, personality-free characters, inept writing, horrendous acting and terrible effects which muddy any monster action to the point of indecipherable boredom, it’s a film best left to live unseen on the 4am schedule of bad cable TV.
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On the DVD:

The DVD comes with a clear, blemish-free video transfer and a decent 5.1 Dolby Digital track (or a 2.0 track, should you choose). The only real compliment I can pay the film is that the production budget that wasn’t used to hire actors or competent effects was clearly pooled towards a decent camera, as it looks sharp at all times. So you can endure the torment in crystal clarity.

The press kit lists a theatrical trailer, but one wasn’t present on the review copy I received. Instead there’s a handful of trailers for Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment’s other titles, all of which look infinitely more fun than The Blackout. There are no other bonus features, but the film itself is only 75 minutes long with credits; not having to suffer more of this dreck is the best bonus you could ever hope for.

Rating:





The Blackout is available to buy on DVD from 30th August 2010.