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Toronto After Dark 2017: ‘Beyond Skyline’ and ‘Victor Crowley’

Beyond Skyline (DIR. Liam O’Donnell)

Liam O’Donnell’s Beyond Skyline is the sequel to 2010’s critically panned sci-fi action flick, Skyline.  Movie fans have been eagerly anticipating Beyond Skyline after an impressive trailer dropped earlier this year.  With performances by Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War) and Iko Uwais (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), many were hopeful that the new film would be a vast improvement on the original.

I am not going to attempt to compare Beyond Skyline to its predecessor, since I haven’t watched the first Skyline film, but with a plot that seems to be trying to cram at least four different films into one, this is one of the least consistent and poorly written action movies that I have seen in the past few years.

The story begins with Mark (Grillo), a troubled Los Angeles police officer coming to terms with the recent death of his wife and trying to raise his troubled teenage son (Jonny Weston).  Mark and Trent find themselves below ground in a subway when the earth is suddenly invaded by alien life forms.  The first act has an urban sci-fi/monster movie feel to it, as Mark and the other survivors struggle to the surface to find help.

Things go off the rails after the survivors are abducted and taken on board the alien ship.  One of Beyond Skyline’s biggest flaws is that it doesn’t seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be.  The second act sees the film transforming into straight-forward sci-fi action, before making yet another transition into (of all things) a martial-arts adventure after the alien spaceship crash-lands in the jungle of Laos.  Mixing genres can be a great thing, as long it is done carefully and the story and tone of the film remain consistent.  Unfortunately, Beyond Skyline gives the impression that first-time director O’Donnell crammed every film he has ever imagined making into this one project.  Overloaded with characters that conform to nearly every action movie stereotype imaginable, the script is spread so thin that the character development, when there is any, is flimsy and rushed.

Beyond Skyline does contain some exciting visuals.  The alien technology is aesthetically interesting and the martial arts fight scenes, while the context may be baffling, are executed well.  While the visual effects are strong, they aren’t groundbreaking or innovative enough to justify the weaknesses in storytelling.

For audiences that just want to watch giant monsters fight, Beyond Skyline will probably satisfy expectations;  but for those who want something more than lame one-liners, stilted dialogue, and a non-sensical plot, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.

– Shannon Page

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Victor Crowley (DIR. Adam Green)

Over-the-top slasher flick Victor Crowley oozes gore and old-school campy charm.

Though it is technically the fourth installment in director Adam Green’s Hatchet franchise, the film is designed to stand alone.  Set ten years after the events of the original Hatchet, a gang of aspiring young filmmakers have ventured into Honey Island Swamp in the hopes of creating a movie about the legendary serial killer, Victor Crowley (played by Kane Hodder of the Friday the 13th franchise).  The film crew accidentally resurrects Crowley just as Andrew Yong (Parry Shen), the lone survivor of the massacre a decade before, returns to the swamp to film a television interview.  Andrew’s plane crashes into the bayou and both groups find themselves fighting for their lives against a supernatural, hatchet-wielding maniac with a deformed face to delights in dismembering his victims.

Like the first three Hatchet films, Victor Crowley is a love letter to the slasher genre.  While it does conform to some of my least favorite slasher tropes (such as the overt sexualization of violence against female characters), there is a quality of self-awareness to this conformity that goes so far as to poke fun at the tropes themselves.  The film is also intentionally funnier than most run-of-the-mill slashers.  Dave Sheridan (Scary Movie, Ghost World, Naked) has excellent comedic timing and steals every scene he is in as swamp tour guide/wannabe actor Dillon.

But Victor Crowley isn’t just laughs;  there are genuine scares to be had as well. The jump-scares are well-executed and not nearly as predictable as one might expect them to be.  Additionally, most of the main action takes place inside the body of the crashed plane and the setting successfully invokes a sense of claustrophobia and panic.

Then, of course, there’s the blood.  Lots and lots of it: spraying, spattering, gushing.  Rest assured that, at the end of the day, Victor Crowley knows exactly what it is: a ridiculously fun B-movie bloodbath.

– Shannon Page 

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Toronto After Dark: @TADFilmFest
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