Well, it was certainly the scariest iPhone commercial I’ve ever seen. Other than that though, Dark Skies is about as by-the-numbers a horror movie as you can find these day. If you like jolting scares and a general sense of creepiness, the film should satisfy you. If you like a logical progression of events and taut pacing perhaps look elsewhere.
Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play Lacy and Daniel Barrett, proud parents of two boys and – in standard horror film fashion – about as typical a suburban family as you can find. Save for some recent money issues they live a charmed life, that is until strange events start taking place in their kitchen. So, essentially Paranormal Activity with aliens (and slightly better camera work).
Unfortunately, aliens don’t fit too well into that pre-established framework. I often found myself wondering what their motivation was in all of this – why technologically superior beings would seem to spend most of their time subtly terrorizing a family with what amounts to a series of creepy pranks in the night. As far as I could tell the aliens in Dark Skies were just screwing with this family to be dicks. Seems an odd reason to travel millions of light years.
Of course the film tries to explain that we’re merely lab rats in their experiments. That it would be the same as trying to explain our motivations to our own furry little science projects. I have a feeling the real reason is that screenwriting is hard, but you know, the lab rat thing works too.
My main issue with Dark Skies is the amount of willful stupidity required to keep its plot above water. The movie spins its wheels for a while in the middle of the second act simply because no one can be persuaded to compile the evidence and deduce that there’s anything wrong.
Skepticism is understandable when you’re talking about alien encounters, but about a thousand birds ran into their house at one point and as far as I can tell it didn’t even make the local paper. Encounters with the police were equally laughable, essentially amounting to the old ‘damn kids’ cliché.
Part of the problem is there really isn’t any logical progression to these incidents. Whereas the Paranormal Activity ghosts seem to understand that you start small and work your way up to the heavy haunting, these aliens seem to impose their presence in a big way early and don’t look back from there. This can make what follows feel rather monotonous. After a while of watching this family terrorized and controlled, creepy disturbances and alien silhouettes just seem par for the course.
The film’s one saving grace is Keri Russell, who does her best to ground the problematic script. Why she doesn’t get cast in more movies is beyond me, but without her Dark Skies would border on unwatchable – or at least unintentionally funny – particularly given how grating her onscreen husband was written.
Still, she alone isn’t enough to save the movie. Dark Skies is good for a few good scares… mainly because even the flap of a butterfly’s wing is enough for the soundtrack to emit a loud sudden pulse (just in case you couldn’t tell that it was supposed to be ominous).
But for the most part the film is a relatively uninspired clone of that certain brand of micro-horror that’s dominated movie theatres over the last couple of years. Trust me, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.