Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Quiet Hour: Planetary Invasions and Home Invasions

Even the unseen aliens terrorizing the English countryside appreciate tea time. For two-hours every day, they retreat back to the mother ship, giving the humans a brief respite. Sadly, but only too believably, most survivors squander that time on in-fighting and their own inhumanity towards man. A young former veterinary student did not ask for any of this, but she will do her best to protect her home and blind brother from terrestrial invaders in Stéphanie Joalland’s The Quiet Hour (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from Monarch Home Entertainment.

Two days ago, Sarah Connelly’s father did not make it home in time. She buried him, but has yet to break the news to her brother Tom. Unfortunately, she will have more pressing issues when a former solider named Jude barges into their home. Frankly, he does not seem so bad. It is the small gang of plunderers (very much in the tradition of The Road) chasing him who will be the problem. Jude insists the earth-scorching Kathryn and her savage family will not stop with him. They will also steal the Connelly’s food and supplies, most likely killing them in the process. Although Tom is skeptical, his sister is quickly convinced. Thus, begins a strange siege that is only waged two hours a day.

The atmosphere of Hour is almost indescribably dark and moody. It is sort of like a cross between the early episodes of the BBC’s mid-1980s sf show, The Tripods, and the post-apocalyptic prepper dramas, like The Road or Into the Woods. There are most definitely aliens raining down death from the skies, but it is a complete mismatch of extinction event proportions. We never see the aliens themselves, jut the mother ship looming in the horizons and snatches of the patrol vehicles (because if you ever saw them clearly, you’d probably be dead).

Hour is very unsettling, in part because the alien occupation is so impersonal and callous. There is no commander sneering at humanity like the dreadlock-sporting John Travolta in Battlefield Earth (to pick on a real strawman example). We do not even register—period.

The French-born British-based Joalland is remarkably assured executing the intangibles like vibe and world-building (sort of like the more precise mise-en-scène). Viewers can feel a hush settle over them as soon as the film starts. However, she never really kicks the narrative up to an appropriate climatic level. Instead, it just seems to slowly rise along a modest gradient.

Regardless, Dakota Blue Richards (the young lead in the disastrous Golden Compass adaptation way back when New Line was still a studio) is terrific as Connelly. She is tough, sensitive, and looks comfortable holding a hunting rifle. Likewise, Karl Davies broods quite effectively, while also handling the macho stuff pretty well. In contrast, Jack McMullen’s Tom Connelly is rather petulant and whiny, but the character is probably entitled, given his backstory.

It is too bad Joalland could not seal the deal with a perfect dismount, but she still shows plenty of talent and potential, especially if she continues making non-traditional genre films. This is exactly the sort of film that would make a perfect video rental back in the day, or something like a digital VOD stream in current parlance. Ultimately well-worth seeing for its considerable merits, The Quiet Hour releases today (3/21) on DVD, from Monarch Home Entertainment.