Dark Skies

2013, Movie, PG-13, 95 mins

Review

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It was only a matter of time before the Paranormal Activity model got an alien spin -- and Dark Skies is it. Competently filmed (only part of it utilizes home cameras) and with alright acting around the room, this feature film about a family being terrorized by an unseen force lays some good groundwork, but takes its sweet time to finally get to its oh-so-clever climax. Clocking in at 95 minutes, one would think that it’d feel like a short and sweet scare film, but somehow it gets bogged down by one too many unexplained occurrences that are afflicting this family unit. It doesn’t help that the best scare is halfway through the flick, which screws up the momentum when the filmmakers don’t deliver another scene quite like that until the end -- and even then, the creep-out factor has been lost to the thinly veiled politics hiding behind an alien horror movie.

Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play Lacy and Daniel Barrett, a normal couple just barely getting by. Lacy struggles to sell houses around their area while Daniel is out of work, constantly hiding the fact that their home is about to be taken from them. Into this mix are their two boys, Jesse and Sam (Dakota Goyo and Kadan Rockett, respectively), who talk to each other on walkie-talkies when the older Jesse isn’t caught up in first-kiss feelings with a family friend’s daughter. All seems well until a string of bizarre break-ins begin to disrupt the household. Little Sam in particular seems to have a connection with whoever -- or whatever -- is visiting them at night. After a slew of mysterious events, the Barretts turn to Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons), a specialist who claims that they just might be the victims of an alien visitation -- and that they have no choice but to give in or fight back.

Hollywood is pumping out so many of these homeowners-in-peril movies that it’s not too hard to guess where Dark Skies is heading at each turn, but where it swings and misses is the act of keeping the audience engaged. Simmons’ character shows up at a perfect time to liven up the proceedings, but the talented actor plays it too low-key -- a fascinating choice, to be sure, but not exactly what this movie needed at that moment. Dark Skies is not a bad film, but it’s flawed in a certain way that makes it dull enough to feel worse than it is. By the time writer/director Scott Stewart (of the equally lacking action-horror fiestas Legion and Priest) tries to pull the rug out from under the audience in the finale, it’s too little too late. With viewers still reeling from a fist-to-the-face analogy on gun rights and protecting one’s house against (illegal) aliens, the last thing they want to experience is a poor man’s Shyamalan ending. Like a bad hangover, this flick needs more cheese to sop up viewers’ expectations for an alien-siege movie -- and one scene of a shotgun vs. an alien just won’t cut it. leave a comment --Jeremy Wheeler

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