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CCI | Director Chris Gorak On His Alien-Invasion Film Darkest Hour

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Emile Hirsch in "The Darkest Hour"

Summit Entertainment is set to deliver Chris Gorak’s alien-invasion flick The Darkest Hour, a Timur Bekmambetov-produced sci-fi adventure set in Moscow, on Dec. 23. Before you sigh and point to the abundance of other recent alien-invasion movies as examples of why this one should not exist, take a moment to hear a little bit more about the inventive scenario that’s been created to entertain you.

The story opens on stars Max Minghella and Emile Hirsch, two Americans who have traveled to the Russian capital on a business trip. They’re out taking in the local club scene one evening during the trip, enjoying a good time with fellow stars Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor.

Suddenly, the lights go dark. There’s been an invasion by an energy-absorbing race of extraterrestrials, and it’s not long before the planet descends into a post-apocalypse with few survivors, and dangerous entities roaming free. Our group survives the initial attack, along with fifth group member Joel Kinnaman, first hiding and eventually working to figure out how to bring the fight back to these invaders.

Gorak summarized the movie for a crowd of journalists over the weekend during a special presentation at Comic-Con International, revealing our first looks at concept art, stills and the debut trailer, which will be attached to Rise of the Planet of the Apes later this summer.

“The great thing about this story for me is … moving through this apocalyptic world through the character’s perspectives,” the soft-spoken Gorak said. “Taking the journey with them and discovering the powers of the aliens and eventually how to fight back through these characters.”

“We learn it’s a global event, but we stuck true to our characters and true to our story and true to Moscow, which was just an incredible location.”

The film’s invaders are unusual in the realm of alien-invasion movies. The eventual reveal is a major component of the genre, the audience’s first glimpse of what the otherworldy arrivals look like. It’s an element that is de-emphasized in The Darkest Hour because of the nature of these creatures.

“We learn through their powers that they are made up of a lethal wave energy, basically eliminating any modern technology that you can imagine,” Gorak explained. “So cars, planes, trains, cellphones, computers … everything’s dead, there’s no electricity.”

“The wave energy that makes up these entities, which you can’t see all the time, is also made up of an alien electricity. That becomes what we learn and what the characters will eventually devise a way to fight back [against].”

These creatures of pure energy don’t perceive the world around them the way we humans do. Concept art and stills show the alien point of view, a blue-toned night vision-like perspective that renders humans and machines as the network of electricity that flows through them. They see dead things as shapes, but living humans are clearly recognizable by the electromagnetic pulse we all have coursing through our bodies.

The aliens also possess the ability to reach out and grab victims with a lightning-like tendril, and their very presence powers up any electric devices in their vicinity. That element, coupled with the fact that the invaders are basically invisible to humans, creates an unusual dynamic that spins established conventions around.

“What was really attractive about this project to me was, it kind of flips the genre on its head [in making] daytime scarier than night,” Gorak said. “I thought that was really unique. You can’t see them in the daytime but they affect electricity in such a way that a light bulb can save your life. You can see it come on.”

“That was a lot of fun to think about, what could be lit up and turned on as the danger approaches. It’s a new way to create a sense of danger.”

You’ll get to see this aspect of the alien invaders at play when the trailer arrives later this summer. In one of the clips, Hirsch throws a handful of small light bulbs out ahead of the group. A subsequent series of shots shows one of the bulbs flaring to life and snippets of the confrontation that follows.

A large part of the “taking-the-fight-to-the-invaders” component of the movie will involve this sort of as-they-go research and development. Our heroes eventually meet up with a Russian scientist — played by Wanted‘s Butcher, Dato Bakhtadze — who uses a Faraday cage to protect himself and his cat. This is a real-world invention that conducts electricity around its outer shell without allowing it inside.

Gorak clammed up when it came to questions about the aliens and what brings them to our planet. “A lot gets answered at the end of the film,” he explained. “Part of the adventure of this story is being with these characters, being locked to their perspective, and learning as they go. We made a very conscious decision to do that.”

Going along with the film is a companion comic that literally paints a picture (okay, a series of pictures) of the ongoing conflict around the world. Ben Templesmith is doing the cover for the Oni Press book, which also features the work of: Brian Churilla, Tom Fowler, Mateus Santolouco, Pia Guerra, Nathan Fox, Brian Hurtt, Jeremy Haun, Ron Chan, Nathan Fairbarn, Bill Crabtree and Rick Spears.

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