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Dark Skies (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)


Dark Skies

Starring Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons, L.J. Benet, Rich Hutchman, Myndy Crist, Annie Thurman, Jake Washburn and Ros Ostrow.

Screenplay by Scott Stewart.

Directed by Scott Stewart.

Distributed by Dimension Films.  95 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

“Found footage” horror films have become so commonplace that filmmakers don’t even really bother to pretend that they are found footage anymore.  It used to be that this kind of low-budget scare fest would claim to be real film, use completely unknown stars, skip opening credits and rely on shaky hand-held cameras to make it all seem like it really happened – see The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield or any one of dozens of those film’s imitators.

Dark Skies is not the first of this type of film to use recognizable stars as the leads and steady professional camerawork.  Milla Jovovich did the extremely similar The Fourth Kind, Colin Hanks did Alone with Her and several recognizable stars showed up in Quarantine, The Apparition, Lovely Molly and The Last Exorcism.

So the film has to make the audience get over the slight shock that Felicity and The Americans star Keri Russell is being haunted by nasty little buggers from outer space.

But otherwise, Scott Stewart’s Dark Skies could be just another one of these multitude of horror stories with a bit of a sci-fi twist.  But whether it is a witch, a demon, a ghost or a little green man lurking in the background, these films follow a pretty rigid formula and Dark Skies does not change things up that much.

As is standard for these stories, the movie takes place in a very limited setting – at least a good 75% of the plot happens in the family’s suburban home.  A nice, normal group of people are living their lives comfortably when a series of inexplicable things start happening to them: strange sounds in the night, furniture moved around, people start walking in their sleep, strange markings appear on walls.  Often a child or children seem to be the focus of the supernatural danger (there are two of them here), and even if they aren’t the focus, they are almost always put into danger.  Slowly but surely, over a period of nights, the disturbances become bigger and scarier – all captured on film or video at night – until the family reaches a crescendo of helpless panic.

Dark Skies actually sets up its suburban nightmare scenario better than many of these.  Part of this has to do with a very strong cast for this kind of film: Russell and Josh Hamilton bring much more gravity to their somewhat underwritten characters than the normal amateurs ever would, and there is a wonderful cameo scene by the always reliably great character actor J.K. Simmons as an acquiescent alien conspiracy theorist.

The last scenes, in which the family barricade themselves in their house with weapons and an angry guard dog to fight off anyone who may be after them seems to have an odd survivalist-conservative slant going.  It’s almost like Dark Skies wants to suggest that the family is the tea party nation, and the aliens are President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, coming for your children, your money and your guns.  It’s an odd and unnecessary slant that leaves the viewer with a bad taste in their mouth, unless they are friends of Ted Nugent.

Then again, maybe I’m giving too much sociological weight to what is essentially a silly “We are not alone” thriller.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 28, 2013.

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