Running Time: 97 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
If it ain’t broken then don’t fix it. This seems to be a saying that Hollywood stick to when they get a winning tried and tested formula in their hands. Although the posters for Dark Skies would have you believe that the producers of Insidious, Paranormal Activity and Sinister are delivering a new horror phenomenon, what they are really serving up is a total rehash of Insidious and the PA series with aliens rather than ghosts/ demons.
Kerry Russell plays Lacy Barrey, a hard working wife and mother that is trying to make ends meet amidst the economic slump. Her husband Daniel (Josh Hamilton) is struggling to get work and her sons, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Dakota Goyo) are troubled by their parent’s stress and bickering. To make matters worse, strange things are happening within the confines of their home. Their alarm system is repeatedly going off for no reason, strange and elaborate structures are found constructed with household implements, family photographs are being replaced by blank ones and a plethora of birds have decorated their guts on the outside woodwork after a high speed collision course. Apart from the bird suicide (disorientating rays from US naval equipment creating a form of drift migration being the logical solution?!), the parents believe that Jesse and Sam might be the source of the pranks and worry that their stress is rubbing off on the youths. Although the brothers offer no explanation to the incidents, Sam does suggest that it might be a lanky, pale fella called the Sandman that has been contacting him during the night. When the family members start to take unexplained fits and Lacy freaks out in style during a client meeting, they realise that something might well be out of place. Lacy notices that Sam’s sketch depicting him holding hands with alien-like creatures resembles a drawing in an article that was made by a child that was allegedly abducted by extraterrestrials. After coming to the conclusion that her family are under threat from little green men, she contacts the genre stereotype expert, Edwin Pollard (the ever reliable, JK Simmons). Pollard has survived an attack by the ‘greys’ but has also been mentally and physically scarred by the experience ever since. After a brief lecture on how to guard against the onslaught, the Russell family fortify their home for the inevitable attack.
Dark Skies is a solid enough shock-ride for the dating crowd with low expectations but it is about time that someone came up with some new ideas. The build-up scenes are so similar to previously made films that you are pre-empting the scares before they happen. Long spaces of silence are interrupted by excessively loud sound effects that gain yells of shock from half the audience and groans of familiarity from the more experienced other half. One sequence when Lacy enters her youngest son’s bedroom and witnesses someone standing above his bed successfully tests the durability of the underwear but it is a cheap, carbon copy of a moment from Insidious. All the other effects, including the mass bird suicide and the head banging scene, will be familiar with anyone who has watched the recent television and cinema advertisements. By the time the house is under siege from extra-terrestrial dudes it’s just another case of who is going to be abducted and what the lame twist is going to be.
The acting for the most part is fairly good. Kerry Russell does well to come across believable while being laboured with a pretty awful script. Her character spends most of the movie trying to persuade her stupid and disbelieving husband that there is no rational explanation for the stange series of events that are affecting them. JK Simmons has fun hamming it up as eccentric loner that might offer the young family some slim hope regards defending their home.
Dark Skies is a passable but ultimately forgettable entry in the alien abduction genre. It offers very few new ideas and remains another workmanlike offering from Blumhouse productions.