Dark Skies (2013) Review
Writer: Scott Stewart
Running Time: 1hr 37 Mins
Cast: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett
Producers: Blumhouse Productions
Plot: A suburban American family is faced with a series of unexplained supernatural encounters which turn their world upside down.
Dark Skies is the latest chiller from distinguished contemporary horror house, Blumhouse Productions, who transfixed us with the infamous ‘Paranormal Activity’ series, the cryptic ‘Sinister’ and the superb ‘Insidious’. Dark Skies is entrusted to Scott Stewart (supreme visual effects editor turned director) to tread the much trodden, yet rarely mastered, supernatural conflict with the human kind.
There was huge disappointment around the lack of marketing logic surrounding the film. That initial sense of foreboding upon hearing the title was quickly extinguished by the revealing trailers launched in the weeks preceding the film’s release in the UK. To evoke fear, the source of horror must be cloaked in mystery. The deepest fear is that of the unknown. Dark Skies had no opportunity to raise those lingering doubts in the back of the viewer’s mind: what/who is traumatising the family? A vengeful creature? A serial killer? It is indeed possible to answer every question before even watching the film thus eliciting an expectant state of mind rather than a frightened one. This certainly diminished the overall experience and made for an incredibly generic feature.
Dark Skies felt like a horror checklist, each scene ticking off unimaginative plot devices one by one. Despite its shortcomings, the nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ (1963) made for one of the more frightening episodes of the film. That aside, the film is engulfed in the sheer emptiness of its terror inducing tactics; illogical rationale behind decision making and a damp squib of an ending. To compound issues, the voyeuristic element from the Paranormal Activity franchise is virtually copied and pasted into Dark Skies, the whole affair lacks originality. Being a fan of Blumhouse productions, I even searched desperately for a deeper allegorical meaning behind the story, it simply isn’t there.
There was an opportunity to build on strong characters, the protagonist American family (the Barretts) are well crafted. Set in the backdrop of the recession, the couple struggle to make ends meet. Such sincerity makes for characters which we do care about, especially in the case of the youngest brother Sam (expertly played by Kadan Rockett). One can relate to such peril in recessionary times, you do hope they survive and are ultimately content at the final credits.
There may be those who indeed enjoy Dark Skies, it offers the typical supernatural nuances you would expect from this genre. The odd fright, mild terror and some neat CGI are formulaic in execution. It is a distinctly average, generic genre piece which for ranks in mediocrity. Dark Skies will do little to detract around the hype for the upcoming Blumhouse feature titled ‘The Purge’ (certainly one to look out for in 2013). The plot screams of originality and menace, elements Dark Skies sadly lacks in abundance.