The geeks packed into the San Diego Convention Center in July were prepared for “Green Lantern” and “Thor” and “Captain America.” They knew to expect lots of cool footage and A-list panels, and their expectations were more than fulfilled. What almost no one had on their radars was “Skyline,” an independent alien-invasion flick that swooped into Comic-Con virtually unnoticed and came away with the some of the festival’s most positive buzz.
Greg Strause, who co-directed the flick with his brother and fellow founder of visual effects house Hydraulx, said that he met that skeptical-turned-astonished viewpoint again and again during the production process.
“People would be like, ‘What are you doing next?’ ” he told MTV News. “And we’d be like, ‘Shooting this little indie we’re financing ourselves. We’re shooting it in my house.’ So you tell all these people, and they say, ‘Oh, that’s cute.’ And when they actually see it, their jaws drop.”
Among the jaws that dropped were those at Sony Pictures, which had hired Hydraulx to do effects work on “Battle: Los Angeles.” Both films feature aliens invading Los Angeles, and Sony accused Hydraulx of stealing equipment and ideas for use on “Skyline,” according to TheWrap.com. Those are charges Strause strenuously denies.
“It’s total bullsh–,” he said. “We work on a movie with aliens involved with it, if not every year, then every other year. We worked on ‘Avatar,’ ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,’ ‘Invasion.’ It’s all about aliens. That’s what our company does. And everyone knows that.”
Strause and his brother, Colin, directed the much-derided “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem,” and Greg finds it particularly frustrating to be the target of such accusations at a time when one of his directorial projects is finally getting such great buzz. “Colin and I catch a lot of crap for ‘AVPR,’ ” he said. “And ['Skyline'] is us. It’s us.”
What the brothers have accomplished is no doubt impressive. Inspired by Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity,” they set out to make a low-budget version of an alien invasion movie that never once felt low-budget. Aided by the capabilities of their effects company and top-of-the-line digital cameras, they holed up in a house in Marina del Ray, California, and filmed the bulk of their story, which focuses on how a group of friends react to the arrival of nefarious aliens. The finished film contains 800 visual effects and employed just one day of green-screen work.
“We have a character drama that plays out in this claustrophobic space,” Strause explained. “Whenever we do leave the space, we have huge shots. The teaser [trailer] is the big, epic, visual side of it. When you see the next trailer, you’ll get a sense of the claustrophobic, character side.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Skyline.”