Dark Skies (2013)

Dark SkiesFrankly, Lucy (Keri Russell) and Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) have enough on their plate; their oldest son (Dakota Goyo) is spending too much time with a bad influence, their youngest (Kadan Rockett) is having nightmares about The Sandman and, despite a number of cut-backs, their income isn’t sufficient to maintain the lives that they have become accustomed to. The last thing they need is to be chosen by a group of extraterrestrials as the subjects of their alien experimentations, but when their home comes under attack they must nevertheless come together as a family in order to fight The Grays.

Heralded by a trailer that contained more laughs than that for supposed spoof Scary Movie 5, Dark Skies looked set to be THE comedy of April, 2013, whether intentional or otherwise. With the promotional material boasting it to be from the makers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, it really wasn’t a question of whether it would be a good movie or a bad one, just whether it would be too boring to engage, or too ridiculous to be taken seriously.

The unexpected truth of it is that Dark Skies is a better movie than either Paranormal Activity or Insidious, both more interesting and substantially more atmospheric. Dropping ghosts and ghouls for aliens and abductions, the film — written and directed by Paul Bettany enthusiast Scott Stewart — is a haunted house movie with a difference; not only is the threat from a different planet, but the characters had worries of their own long before the anything went bump in the night.

Dark Skies’ closest relation is in fact M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, in that it too tells an interstellar story through the eyes of recogniseably human characters. The Barrett parents’ struggles are more financial than existential, however, and Stewart’s exploration of the monetary toll of alien visitation is a novel touch to a story that might otherwise have felt familiar and formulaic. While the giant house and state-of-the-art surveillance system does somewhat undermine Stewart’s intent, it’s still nice to see the action grounded in some sort of reality.

In taking the time to humanise his characters, however, Stewart does push his audience’s attention span to the limit, particularly in the second act where the pace undoubtedly begins to drag. Fortunately, his cast do a fairly decent job of carrying the extra weight. With the possible exception of Josh Hamilton (depending on how forgiving you’re feeling), the family are as interesting as a unit as they are as individuals, with Kerri Russell and Dakota Goyo in particular giving a pair of impressive performances. Inevitably, it is J. K. Simmons who walks away with the movie, thanks to his cameo as an expert on The Grays.

An alien invasion movie on a budget, both in front of and behind the camera, Dark Skies is by no means the write-off that the trailers suggested. Though overlong and perhaps a little too earnest for its own good, Stewart’s film is a jumpy, entertaining and interesting little horror movie that is as interested in its characters’ dreams as it is their darkest nightmares.

3.5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Dark Skies (2013)

  1. Pingback: April 2013 – You’re all going to die tonight | popcornaddict

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