Movie Review: Dark Skies

DarkSkies“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

Written and directed by Scott Stewart, Dark Skies begins with an eerie quote from British author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke and goes on to suggest that there is no pending alien invasion. The fact is, they’ve been here among us all along.

Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play Lacy and Daniel Barrett, a suburban middle-class couple whose peaceful existence is shattered when their family becomes the target of a terrifying, unknown force.

Daniel’s been recently let go from his job as an architect and has been struggling to find work, leaving Lacy (a real-estate agent) as the sole bread-winner trying to sell houses in an already volatile market.

Adding to the stress, son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) is in full pubescent mode; dabbling in watching soft core porn and keeping company with an older malcontent. While youngest son Sam (Kadan Rockett) seems to be content with just trying to rehabilitate an injured lizard.

But it’s not until something begins rearranging items in the Barrett’s kitchen, scaring Sam and setting off the burglar alarm that the family realizes something is wrong. This is followed by rumors of being visited by “The Sandman”, unexplained blackouts, bruises and flocks of birds dive-bombing the family home. Then there’s the discovery of a creepy child drawing which only reinforces the true horror of the unknown.

The question as to whether or not the family is alone is finally answered when the Barrett’s reach out to paranormal expert Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons), who himself has been tormented by the same alien beings.

There are quite a few homages to past horror/suspense classics scattered throughout Dark Skies: including kitchen rearrangement (Poltergeist); child communication with the unknown presence (The Shining) and cameras throughout the house (Paranormal Activity). But regardless of paying tribute to old hat, Dark Skies shines on its own by relying more upon the build up of tension and less on the standard “boo” pablum.

It’s the emphasis of the Barrett’s vulnerability that makes the supernatural events they experience all the more real. And as could be the case with any typical 21st century family faced with financial crisis, one has to take into consideration whether or not Clarke’s argument is really valid after all.

Dark Skies is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. Special features include feature commentary with writer/director Scott Stewart as well as an alternate ending.

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