Movie Review: Dark Skies

 
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BY PAUL BEIMERS —

Rating: 3/5 Stars

We are not alone.

At least, that’s what Dark Skies would have you believe.  Hollywood’s latest attempt at mild PG-13 horror distinguishes itself very slightly from its largely generic sci-fi predecessors.  To put any lingering doubts to rest: yes, this is indeed a film about aliens.

A laughable concept?  It certainly sounds like it. Unsurprisingly, the plot certainly threatens to veer into such territory at times. Yet, despite all indications to the contrary, Scott Stewart’s story of grey men and abductions is surprisingly effective in its attempts to scare the audience. The result is a decent horror flick that, while forgettable, manages to be an enjoyable ride while it lasts.

The Barretts — consisting of mother Lacy (Keri Russell), father Daniel (Josh Hamilton), and their two sons, Jesse and Sammy — paint a picture of the typical suburban family, albeit one in the midst of some hardship. Daniel, who is unemployed, is desperately seeking new work, while Lacy manages to keep the household afloat with her position as a real-estate agent. This system comes at a cost, as a constant stream of bills arriving at their door puts both on edge. Tempers begin to flare as every member of the family begins to experience unsettling incidents and bizarre behavior. Photographs disappear. Alarms go off in the middle of the night despite no evidence of any intruders. All family members gain inexplicable injuries and exhibit signs of not having entire control of their bodies. As events spiral out of control, Lacy begins to suspect that the forces behind it all are not from this planet, a theory so-called specialist and fellow believer Edwin (J.K. Simmons) confirms.

It won’t inspire outright gasps or screams, but Dark Skies is appreciably creepy despite its initially silly premise. None of the scares found here are truly shocking, but they create a fitting undercurrent of tension and dread that keeps one unsettled and engaged. The core of the story is by-the-numbers horror, of course, and contains almost every cliché one can expect. Rather than being truly problematic, however, this fact is remarkably inoffensive and does not hurt the overall film in any substantial way. The unoriginality is almost comforting in its predictability, and largely forgivable when considering the small bits of creativity occasionally present in the narrative.

The subtle apprehension underlying the plot is complemented by other aspects of the production. The first of these is the cinematography, which possesses a degree of creativity and care frequently absent from films of this caliber. Many shots are well-framed and striking in their composition, giving the presentation a nicely stylized feel. The second strength is Keri Russell’s performance, which is both sympathetic and relatively realistic.  It’s nothing award-worthy, but better than expected. The film contains the likeability necessary to make the ho-hum story a tad more meaningful.

It isn’t the scariest horror flick to be released in recent years, nor the most creative, but Dark Skies is a pleasant surprise. You will not walk away convinced of the plausibility or inherent spookiness of extraterrestrial life, but you may just reconsider your dismissal of Hollywood’s little green men and silver saucers.

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