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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: Dark Skies

An Insidious Alien Invasion

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: February 22, 2013 – U.S.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Scott Stewart         
Writer: Scott Stewart
Cast: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, 
Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, 
J.K. Simmons

What if an alien invasion already happened and their hidden presence is now a fact of life like death and taxes? That's the situation facing the Barrett family in the sci-fi horror hybrid, "Dark Skies."

It begins with a mess in the kitchen and an open sliding door – a typical break-in scenario. But something seems off right away. It feels bizarre.  

The situation continues to escalate over the next few nights. In response, security systems are installed – first an alarm and then cameras – but those only leads to more issues and additional mysteries. The investigating officer wonders if there are any problems in the family. Maybe one of the children is acting out for attention?

Lacy (Keri Russell) and Daniel (Josh Hamilton) have been under stress because he has been out of work and their income is dependent solely on her success as a realtor. They have been arguing – which their two little boys, Jesse (Dakota Goyo, "Real Steel") and Sammy (Kadan Rockett), can't help but overhear.

Jesse is about 13, hangs out with an older boy, watches porno videos starring the world's ugliest performers, and has entered that rebellious, hormonal stage where he notices girls and doesn't want to be treated like a little kid anymore.

Sammy is several years younger and still fears mythical creatures that exist solely to harm children. No one pays him much mind when he has bad dreams and claims to be receiving visits from the "Sandman."

It's only when Sammy wets his pants and has a screaming fit do his parents realize that something is amiss. Perhaps he needs therapy?

But it isn't long before a series of strange occurrences sweep over everyone else in the household too.

Desperate for help and answers, Lacy and Daniel turn to an eccentric "expert," Edwin (J.K. Simmons), who lays out the bare facts for them. His approach is blunt and matter-of-fact, and his information is not at all comforting – but the plain, cold truth never is.

"Dark Skies" uses unsettling dream sequences, blackouts, strange bodily marks, animals, tripped alarms, and distorted video footage to create a genuinely spooky atmosphere and dreadful sense of foreboding. The movie succeeds because it takes a fantastical situation and approaches it in a completely realistic manner.

However, the ending comes out of nowhere, and in retrospect, the overall plot structure is nearly identical to another recent horror movie (which I won't name). My initial reaction to the final scene was: "That's it?" It almost seems like only half the story has been told and a sequel is being set up on the spot. Yet, it also works in a way – by leaving the viewer with a feeling of lingering darkness. 

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