Oct 21, 2014

Review: Dark Skies (2013)

Marketed as a movie with the same producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, Dark Skies definitely holds promise. At least for me anyway because of the fact that it's got aliens! Whenever a horror movie is about aliens I just can't help but think of The Thing or Alien. I pretty much set myself up for disappointment each time, but that's life isn't it?

I've never seen Insidious before, but it does look pretty promising at first glance. Paranormal Activity on the other hand is up there in terms of scariness, but I understand that it isn't for everyone. Dark Skies had actually been recommended to me in the past from someone who doesn't appreciate the found footage style of Paranormal Activity one bit. As a traditionally filmed horror, I was definitely interested to see what Scott Stewart could bring to the genre with Dark Skies.


Genre: horror, sci-fi, thriller
Directed by: Scott Stewart
Produced by: Jason Blum, Jeanette Brill, Jessica L. Hall, etc.
Written by: Scott Stewart
Music by: Joseph Bishara
Running time: 97 minutes
Production company: Alliance Films, Automatik Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions, etc.
Distributed by: Alliance Films, Dimension Films, Momentum Pictures, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $3,500,000
Box office: $26,421,747 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons, L.J. Benet, Rich Hutchman, Myndy Crist, Annie Thurman, Jake Brennan, Ron Ostrow, Tom Costello, Marion Kerr, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Josh Stamberg


Daniel (Josh Hamilton) and Lacy Barrett (Keri Russell) live on a quiet street with their sons Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sammy (Kadan Rockett). Their financial situation is a little unsteady and it won't be long before they hit bankruptcy. Lacy wakes up one night to discover all the food in the refrigerator on the kitchen floor and the back door open. Most likely the work of an animal that got in the house, Lacy discovers the following night to her horror that it's clearly the work of someone or something else. 


Dark Skies has a fair bit of dramatic flair inserted into the story, definitely more than I was expecting. The whole Barrett financial situation and the stress involved is a big part of that. There's also some coming of age type stuff with the oldest son Jesse that feels largely unnecessary and forced. I will say though that performances are pretty good, especially Keri Russell who gives quite an effort. 

With that being said, the build up towards the scary scenes are merely adequate. I appreciate that Scott Stewart is patient and takes things slow, it just doesn't completely work. Sammy seems to be that typical creepy kid you might expect to see in a horror movie and it's definitely an aspect that feels pretty stale. 

I'll admit that I jumped when I saw one of the aliens in Dark Skies for the first time, but that's the only real scare that there is in the entire film. The rest of the film is primarily a bevy of ineffective jump scares that are purely pedestrian and disappointingly take away from what could be some true horror scenes. It's a real shame because while Scott Stewart isn't really exploring any new territory, the promise was initially there.

The other big problem I see with Dark Skies is that it seems to borrow heavily from Paranormal Activity. Characters go through moments of what appears to be some kind of possession and there's even a setup of security cameras that allow Daniel to watch everything that goes on in the house. That could've been forgiven if something new or interesting were done, but Stewart gives us nothing.

J.K. Simmons is a nice presence though and represents the only good use of suspension of disbelief for the whole movie. There's an earlier attempt with Lacy that unfortunately falls flat. The reason why Simmons' scene probably works is because of the fact that it's with J.K. Simmons. He can make anything, no matter how silly, work. 

I also can't really say anything positive about the climax or conclusion either. There's no semblance of any real tension and (Spoilers) the twist doesn't feel necessary at all. I suppose it's pretty well hidden but there's no shock or awe to speak of once it hits. (End Spoilers)  

Dark Skies is perfectly watchable, but just don't expect too much. Dial back your expectations because Paranormal Activity this isn't. Sadly, the horror in DS doesn't work at all except for one scene near the beginning. Truth be told, the entire movie feels like it borrows from horror movies of the past, especially Paranormal Activity. No one really likes retreads unless something new or interesting is presented and that just doesn't happen here.



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