The new indie film SKYLINE on the surface may seem like your run of the mill sci-fi film but in reality it is a modern day sci-fi version of the cult favorite NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). This is something that many horror fans will find it hard to believe but I’m here to illuminate you. The film SKYLINE concerns five friends who find themselves trapped in a condo during an alien invasion. Every time they try to escape they are held at bay by several different types of alien creatures from flying “War of the Worlds” type of aliens to “Bezerker” style aliens to giant “Hulk” aliens and this is not counting the giant “Mothership” nor the fighter pilot aliens. The thing that makes this film different from other alien invasion films is that it is told from the perspective of the five friends similar to CLOVERFIELD or SIGNS.
To make it simple, I’m going to go through all the similarities that the two films have.
SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know about any key plot points of the film than read no further than this.
NOTLD Point #1
SKYLINE concerns a group of people trapped in a building who try to get away but never can. One of the genius ideas of SKYLINE is that the characters never remain static for very long. Several times they try to escape even when several members of their group are against it. This is exactly how the events in NOTLD play themselves out. One of the great things about both films is that not all the characters agree on the same course of action and who is to say who the right one is.
NOTLD Point #2
Conflict derives not just from the alien threat outside but from within the very walls of the apartment. The alien invasion is just a catalyst to bring out all the fears and conflict between the characters themselves. These conflicts enrich the characters and makes for a much better film. The aliens outside the walls of the apartment are just like the zombies outside the boarded up house – they are an unknowing force that just appear out of nowhere. If they have a point then it is not known to anyone. Survival is key and the characters in both films will do whatever they have to in order to survive.
NOTLD Point #3
The alien as zombie. If you’ve seen the film then you already know the twist revelation that the alien invaders are harvesting human brains and using them as not only fuel for their bio-machines but as mindless slaves. In the film the aliens rip the brains from the humans in order to implant them in all of their alien vehicles and creatures. The aliens are something straight out of a H.R. Giger painting. It’s not until the very end when Eric Balfour’s character’s brain is ripped out of his body and implanted into one of the alien bodies and is somehow able to take control of the alien body he is in that you realize that these “alien zombies” can be something more than mindless automatons. These aliens have one purpose to gather brains and repopulate the masses; this is similar to that of the mindless zombies of NOTLD who roam aimlessly eating living humans only to repopulate the undead mass. It’s a vicious cycle that continues without end.
NOTLD Point #4
The Basement Vs. The Outside. The major conflict in both films revolve around whether to hide in the basement/stay at the apartment where there is no alternative escape or boarding up the house/escaping to the river. The basement/stay at the apartment has the hopeful promise of being safe and the best chance for rescue from an outside force. Boarding up the house/escaping to the river affords more opportunity for escape from the apocalypse. Who is to say which route is better for they both have their detriments (as is more prevalent in SKYLINE). Although this conflict is present in both films it is heightened in SKYLINE.
NOTLD Point #5
Towards the end a “pose” does eventually arrive with the hope of salvation. In NOTLD this pose thinks that they have what it takes to defend humanity against the undead horde (much to their dismay as can be seen in the Romero sequels) but they end up killing the character of Ben due to ignorance. In SKYLINE the military seem like a force to be reckoned with but all their attempts to destroy the alien invaders come to a tragic (but gloriously bloody) end. In both films the military force presented are inadequate against the bigger threat.
NOTLD Point #6
Re-Animation. The thing about zombies is that they represent the reanimated bodies of the recently deceased. In a way this is the same as the humans in SKYLINE which are killed and them reanimated into mindless (or otherwise dead) alien bodies. The reanimation process does not end there as all the aliens and their creatures and spacecraft can be reanimated as well. On several occasions the humans destroy an alien body or vessel (including the Mothership) but the victory is short lived as the aliens and their vehicles are brought back to life simply by discarding the old brain (or fuel cell) and incorporating a new one.
Taken separately each one of the above points may just be considered influences or homage to the Romero film but when you put them all together there is no denying that SKYLINE is definitely a film more than it seems and for horror fans its fun to acknowledge the influences of the zombie genre on a sci-fi film. This is not to say that the film has its faults but it does have a lot to live up to since there are so many open references to NOTLD. The heart of this film lies in audiences giving the film a chance especially since it is not trying to be the next ID4: INDEPENDENCE DAY (nor the next BATTLEFIELD EARTH) but a simple character film that just so happens to be in the sci-fi genre (with a few influences from those pesky zombies).