Becoming popular in the late 1970's with the showcase of Alien with Sigourney Weaver, the classification of alien movies has shot in many different directions, including horror, comedy and animated, plain destruction and action, and most recently, thriller and suspense. As far as both alien and thriller movies go, there is always one film that blows everything else out of the water. As the ripples settle, there are dozens of knockoffs and near-copies that are almost always unsuccessful. This review, unfortunately, is about one of those flops.
The most recent addition to the ET genre is Dark Skies, a less-than-satisfying piece from writer-director Scott Stewart. He teamed up with some crew members from hits like Paranormal Activity and Sinister to buffer his recent failures (namely Legion and Priest). This eerie and oddly scripted screenplay takes place around a suburban Los Angeles family struggling with an abysmal financial situation and a stressful life who soon find themselves stalked and hunted by arguably the best adaptation of extraterrestrial beings I have seen. The indications of these creatures throughout the film add a macabre setting, but are unable to save it from the things that anchor it down.
The film opens with cheerful clips of various life in a community –children playing in a sprinkler, people walking and enjoying a conversation, and a few clips of houses in an upper-middle class neighborhood. The Barretts, father Daniel, mother Lacey, and sons Jesse and Sammy, are the members of that aforementioned dysfunctional family. Daniel has recently been laid off from an architectural firm, and Lacey is having trouble selling houses as a realtor. Jesse, the older of the sons, is struggling with the onset of adolescence, and gets increasingly combative with them. One night, as Lacey is checking the locked doors of the home, she finds the kitchen violently and freshly ransacked, along with the sliding door predictably open. The next night, she does the same routine, but this time, every canned and boxed good in the home is arranged in a seemingly erratic pattern of towers in the center of the kitchen, along with the silverware, which reflects odd designs onto the ceiling.
Soon, more violent events transpire –Jesse and Sammy having gruesome bruises across their torsos and three whole flocks of crows careening into the Barrett household are among the disturbing happenings. Daniel and Lacey seek the help of a specialist, Edwin Pollard, who calls the beings "The Grays", tells that there are always 3 of them, and that many families all over the Earth have suffered the same fate as the Barretts, with most cases ending with a child abduction.
The most original part of the movie was an explanation from Edwin, saying that there is nothing particularly special about the Barretts to have the Grays choose them to experiment with. Not only that, but he also informs the weary parents that the invasion of aliens has already happened long ago; the aliens are simply studying us up close. Soon after, the film builds to a dramatic climax with the aliens, which is augmented by a very twisty and bone-chilling ending.
Dark Skies, although indeed eerie and filled to the brim with jump-scares, was far below par with the recent thriller and suspense films. The script seems incomplete, lacking and fragile, having been written in a mere six weeks. The actions that the aliens forced the family to do via mind-control seemed unnecessary and out of place. There is little chance for a viewer to really be able to "fear the dark," as the promotional poster states. By the end of the film, a viewer is able to sympathize and care for the characters, not because one knows anything about them, but simply because of what they are going through. Some of the scenes not involving the alien beings were either inappropriate or overly unrelated, as if the director was trying to distract the viewer from the plot. As I was watching it, I felt as though I had to strain my eyes to see certain parts, which definitely decreased the fear factor that this film relied on.
However, there are a few positive things to be said about Dark Skies. As stated earlier, the way the Grays are shown is relatively scary, and poses a likeness of an equally chilling foe in the videogame Dead Space 3. The scene with the conspiracy theorist was a great bit, and arguably the focal point of the movie. It was able to pull all of the horribly cluttered details presented earlier in the film together logically. Also, the final two words of the film made the viewer become both shocked and terrified, and did make the viewer want to see more. Alas, the tail end of the movie came too little, too late.
Dark Skies was a brilliant idea that was just wrapped in so many negative aspects that it did not matter, and not given enough attention or scrutiny. If it had, I have no doubt it could have been on par or even surpassed its recent counterparts. When I think back to seeing Dark Skies, I immediately think of how much I would have preferred to see it on RedBox. If I had, I most certainly would have gotten my one hundred pennies-worth for it. Ultimately, Dark Skies was a dramatic failure in a generally positive genre of movies. It pains this writer to say it, but the most enthralling part of the movie was the first few frames of a quote by Arthur C. Clarke, saying, "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."
~ This review submitted by Dylan Lewis