A family with financial problems sees their life go down deeper the rabbit hole when they begin to get visited by aliens. And no, they don't want to phone home.
And the recent big screen horror drought takes a pee-break with DARK SKIES
; a movie I was pumped for after seeing the trailer. I mean a suspense driven horror flick about aliens? I'm in! I am a big fan of the subgenre: Communion, Fire in the Sky, The X-Files
, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Fourth Kind
and I have always been fascinated about the subject, having read countless books on the matter. With that, my enthusiasm for it went limp when Mr. Studio ducked the press screening process, went on the low jive with the marketing and in an oddball move, demanded that reviews not be posted before 6PM on the day it opened. WTF? That's a first in 12 years of running the site. What's next? I'll have to stand on one foot and hop around with my left hand on my head as I write about the film? Sheesh. NOTE: The only reason this review surfaced late was because I saw the film late. 6PM opening day embargo? Blow me. END OF NOTE
. So with all that negative joo-joo around it, I went to see DARK SKIES fearing the worse and surprisingly came out of there a satisfied horror fan.
Written and directed by Scott Stewart
who's known for brasher, dumber and louder movies like Priest
; DARK SKIES was a derivative yet engaging affair that hit the spot and gave me an hour and a half of genuine chills and thrills. It did right by me by following the two simple rules that usually make for a solid horror experience. Number 1:
Introduce me to compelling characters and relationships that I can care about. This one nailed that angle! I fell in love with the family unit here, related to a lot of what they were going through, thought the acting by all was on the money, hence I cared about their fate big time. Big kudos to Keri Russell (Lacy), Josh Hamilton (Daniel) Dakota Goyo (Jesse) and Kadan Rockett (Sam)! They sold me and then some as individuals and a loving family! Shit, the flick even managed to squeeze in a “it's hard and confusing to be a teenager”
subplot by way of Dakota Goyo's character's plight which added a sense of pathos and further realism to the story. And with that on its side it gunned out rule Number 2:
Put them endearing and credible peeps in harms way. Again, a winner here.
I dug how DARK SKIES went about its fear game. It played it smart by building, hinting and building some more. It almost acted like a horror slow-burn, one that tossed all kinds of weird shit my way to set me up and when the horror finally jacked up to a higher notch; it scared the “bejesus” out of me. Scott Stewart went old school here (well supported by sleek cinematography by David Boyd) and it was much appreciated by this jerk. Cheap boo scares were fairly absent, instead he actually focused on building tension (via brilliant camera work) and delivering honest payoffs. The POV first person found footage crap that is so popular right now was left out in the trash where it belongs at this point. Granted security cameras were eventually used, but the device made sense within the circumstances at hand and didn't feel forced. And there was no overbearing score to impose the scares my way either. Complete opposite. I loved how this one was often silent or with a subtle score/sound design rumbling in the background. It upped the grounded feel and the eerieness of the piece, made the happenings more intimate and by consequence sucked me in deeper into its game.
On the flipside; it did come off as Poltergeist
with aliens. The Spielberg-ish way the family was presented, some similar set pieces and even a pseudo Tangina in the form of an affable J.K. Simmons as the Alien expert there to help and explain to the audience what the hell is up. That was not necessarily a bad thing, cause if you're gonna rip (and pretty much every movie does at this point – it's all been done) rip from the best. So I didn't have a problem with it but it needed to be elbow dropped. The little CGI that was used (not much of it here) alas did take me out a tad as it came off like, well, CGI. Why they didn't go full on practical with their creatures is beyond me. They would have had more impact communicated that way. There was also one subplot that they didn't capitalize on (the threat of child services looming above the parents heads). If you're gonna put it out there, run with it till the end. Otherwise, what's the point? Finally the ending didn’t carry as much punch as I would have liked. Don't get me wrong it had me by the "all-bs" and I was affected by it, but I wish there was more to it then what I got. Don't ask me what, I don't know, this was a hard film to end in a full-on satisfying manner to be honest, but yeah, something was missing.
Overall; DARK SKIES made for a mucho satisfying date night at the movies for yours truly. Although nothing original, it had me hooked with its dire situation, it made me care about its relatable family unit and it doubled down on the spooky. By consequence it got under my skin when the aliens popped out. Yup! Consider me a satisfied horror customer!
Not much. Some blood and odd rashes. This one was about tension not gore.
Keri Russell gave us a glimpse of them pokies through a shirt and her long legs still spell "damn".
After Mr. Studio hid DARK SKIES and treated it like an unwanted step-slut, I was expecting the worse from it. So yeah I was taken aback when I was served up a old fashioned, character driven, well acted, tension filled and fairly creepy little horror dittie with a gripping chain of events. The film only cost $3.5 million to make. Sometimes less is more! And this was one of them cases. Granted it screamed Poltergeist with aliens, I could have done without the little CGI it sported, one subplot went nowhere and the ending didn't uppercut me to the degree it should have, but at the end of it all, I really enjoyed it. It had me in its grasp the whole way and didn't let go till the end. I'll personally take one DARK SKIES over four PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies any day! I predict a very healthy life on VOD and Blu-Ray for this one, driven by positive word of mouth. A film created for audiences, not nit-picky critics who forgot how to have a good time at the movies. It hit where it counted!