“From the producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious” – that’s the sentence used in the trailer and on the poster for Dark Skies and that may be the sentence that puts most people off. It’s a link that’s been horribly overused in recent years, and now holds as much weight as a film being promoted as “based on a true story”.
Here’s the good news: Dark Skies is not a found footage film. There are many scenes showing security camera footage being looked at, but it’s not a found footage film so those who hate that format can breathe a sigh of relief. Here’s the bad news: Dark Skies IS an unsatisfying, predictable missed opportunity.
It’s all about a potential close encounter with visitors from outer space. Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play the concerned couple, the Barretts, alarmed by disturbances in their home that seem to prove that an intruder has managed to get in. They want to protect their two children (Kadan Rockett as the younger one, Sam, and Dakota Goyo as Jesse) but that becomes more difficult to do as things get stranger and stranger and the explanations for what they’re going through seem more and more implausible.
Written and directed by Scott Stewart, Dark Skies isn’t a BAD movie. There are some good ideas in the mix, some fantastic jump scares (though jump scares are the only kind on display, sadly) and a nice tightrope walk between moments grounded in reality and a premise that’s completely unbelievable. Sadly, as things build up to the finale it becomes obvious that the movie isn’t as clever as it thinks it is and nothing works as it’s supposed to – all tension dissipates due to stereotypically dumb character decisions, none of the revelations that are supposed to surprise viewers are hard to spot beforehand and the very last scene just doesn’t work at all, leaving viewers unhappy and unsatisfied as the credits start to roll.
The cast all do a decent job. Russell and Hamilton are a standard couple dealing with a lot of stress, including money worries that have been going on for some time, while Goyo and Rockett do well as the two boys looking out for one another. Goyo is also going through a slightly rebellious phase, but he’s a moody teen second and a good brother first. J. K. Simmons has a small role as someone who knows more than most people about unexplained phenomena that may or may not be connected with aliens and he raises the movie up in the few scenes that he has.
You can get some enjoyment from the movie, it’s far from the worst to hit cinemas in recent years, but the failings drag it down to simply average. You’ll get even more enjoyment, and a bigger sense of unease, from the similar Alien Abduction: Incident In Lake County so be sure to check that one out at some point.
Dark Skies is in UK cinemas now.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: SCOTT STEWART
STARS: KERI RUSSELL, JOSH HAMILTON, DAKOTA GOYO, KADAN ROCKETT, L. J. BENET, J. K. SIMMONS, ANNIE THURMAN
RUNTIME: 97 MINS APPROX