Movie Review: “Dark Skies” – Nearly Lost in the Clouds

Written by Spencer Sterritt February 24, 2013

Dark Skies 2

“Dark Skies,” the newest film from horror producer Jason Blum (“Paranormal Activity,” “Insidious,” and “Sinister“) has the unfortunate task of spicing up the possessed house/home invasion sub-genre of horror, all while sticking to a PG-13 rating. It’s certainly not successful, but director Scott Stewart manages to create just enough dread and suspense to keep “Dark Skies” from being totally forgotten.

Nearly bankrupt and permanently on edge, Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play Lacy and Daniel Barrett, who have to save their family from the dangerous outside world (specifically douche bag teenagers and drugs) and from whatever is coming into their house at night and re-arranging their stuff. The twist here (which is spoiled in the trailer) is that it’s aliens instead of ghouls or ghosts or serial killers. I wish that reveal had been kept secret to give “Dark Skies” a bit more punch.

Could Have Been The First Good Alien Invasion Film In A While

I don’t mean to be too harsh on “Dark Skies,” I did kind of like it. There are only a few jump scares, and most of them are pretty good, especially one near the beginning. And none of the scares are cheap or played for laughs. There’s not a single cat or animal waiting to jump out and frighten the audience, which is good because the fake-out jump scare is one of my most hated horror tropes. “Dark Skies” follows the pattern of mystery and character development in the day/spooky stuff at night, and every time night falls there’s enough spooky stuff to keep you engaged.

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“Dark Skies” almost feels like a re-vamped script from the late 70’s or early 80’s, where Communism and the fear of the other was at an all time high. American flags are everywhere, and the climax actually happens on the Fourth of July. Unfortunately the film doesn’t have a strong enough grasp on what sort of “other” it’s trying to defeat. The aliens aren’t really an analogy for anything in this film, except maybe for invasive governments (since the aliens are observing everything and doing weird experiments when you are asleep), but “Dark Skies” is too invested in the idea of the American family and America itself to make any statement about the government.

“Let’s Get Stoned!”

The only “other” presented in this film is that of teen adolescence, and douche bag high school drop outs, but that barely ties back into the aliens. The oldest son Jesse hangs out with a total tool named Ratner (or Ratface as Daniel calls him), smoking dope and running around the forest with a BB gun, but unfortunately the scenes focusing on Jesse are some of the worst scenes ever. The film has no idea what actual teenagers are like, and all of the bad cliches about teenagers show up here. All these scenes do is make me desperately wish for it to become dark so that the aliens can show up.

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Even though “Dark Skies” is smart enough to over-compensate and do everything it can to kick the suspense right back up during the night scenes, it still follows enough horror tropes to devolve into predictability. No one ever turns on a light, the family is constantly separating themselves from each other, and no one bothers to ever look over their shoulder.  I had hoped for an extended siege climax but it’s over far too quickly, and “Dark Skies” goes into overdrive to pay off on the unsubtle hints that are liberally sprinkled throughout the first half.

“Dark Skies” is the kind of horror film that you watch and constantly turn to other people to whisper your complaints. Go into it expecting a serviceable horror film with aliens, and you’ll come out of the theatre content, capable of shrugging off a lot of the stuff that doesn’t work, but remembering fondly the night scenes and the good scares. For most horror films released in the tail end of February, I think that’s pretty good.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Dark Skies Poster

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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