Dark Skies

Dark, yes: no Fire in these skies

Dark Skies


Written and directed by Scott Stewart. Starring Keri Russell, Dakota Goyo, Josh Hamilton, J.K. Simmons, Annie Thurman.

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

With this opening quote, Dark Skies blows its one unique element before a single frame of footage has been shown. That’s an achievement. Yeah, it’s aliens. And no, there will be no other derivations from the usual formula for the rest of the movie. 

That formula is the old “haunted house” routine, where there are strange goings-on, characters in disbelief, a Google (library in the past) search yielding clues, an expert giving advice/assistance, and then a confrontation with the paranormal ghost/monster/dybbuk/Bagul/etc.

The exact specification of paranormal entity is the one difference these films have. Otherwise, the template is always the same, dating back to Poltergeist and probably well before that. It’s crazy watching these films hit the same exact notes, over and over and over again. 

Still, they can be good if done right. Sinister was supremely creepy. Mama was good. The Possession wasn’t bad. (Jeez, that makes four of these movies in the past few months, not even counting the most recent Paranormal Activity film or A Haunted House.)

Dark Skies is bad. More precisely, it’s a real snooze throughout most of the running time (though there is one genuine scare) before it goes nuts for a nigh-ridiculous finale that hits all the wrong notes and leaves you with a severe case of the giggles. 

Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton star as Lacy and Daniel Barrett, a suburban couple with two young boys (Kadan Rockett and Real Steel’s Dakota Goyo) who begin to experience strange bumps in the night, like stacks of kitchen goods balanced impossibly high. Why would the aliens do that, you might ask? Maybe they saw Poltergeist too…

The aliens also cause flocks of birds to fly into the Barrett home and commit mass suicide. And they do the something similar to the Barrett family members, overtaking their minds for short periods of time while they stare into the sky or bang their heads into the wall, for reasons unexplained. Dad, perhaps inspired by the Paranormal Activity films, installs some security cams across the house.

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Good thing for WebMD: Mom Googles the family’s symptoms and yup, wouldn’t you know it, they’ve got an alien problem. Good thing there’s an expert (J.K. Simmons) who lives down the street. He gives them little advice of worth while spouting off all kinds of nonsense, but Simmons gives the one standout performance in the film, brief as it is. 

Now, these aliens can enter the house undetected, without opening any doors or windows. They can enter your head and overtake your body at will. How do you imagine the family will prepare to combat them? The ending of Dark Skies must be seen to be believed. 

The film was written and directed by Scott Stewart, who previously made Legion and Priest; it’s nice to see a director who works from his own material, particularly in this genre, but Legion wasn’t exactly a lofty perch, and he’s steadily regressed. Dark Skies is the kind of cliché-ridden junk that has feels like it came straight form the assembly line.

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