Here we go again. Dark Skies, directed by Scott Strewart (Legion and Priest), is another sci-fi thriller that makes a good attempt at providing creepy, tense, and goosebump moments to entice audiences to tell all their friends that this film is a thrill ride worth watching. It’s loaded with lots of tricks borrowed from other films – like a paranormal expert, unexplained things moving in the house, a doubting Thomas, blurred security footage, innocent kids that are victims of the unexplained… among other things. So do the overused tricks work in this formula film?
Lacy (Kerri Russell) and Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) are struggling parents trying to keep their family afloat during financially hard times. Lacy is a struggling real estate agent and Daniel is an unemployed architect. Together, the couple is dealing with the stress of mounting bills and possible foreclosure on their home. They have the added responsibility of managing Jesse (Dakota Goyo), their teenage son that is hanging around an older boy that seems to be a bad influence on their 13-year-old. The youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett), seems to be having emotional issues as he keeps telling everyone about his imaginary friend “The Sandman.”
The young family follows their daily routines in suburbia when strange things start happening. At first everything seems minor and not worth mentioning, but then the odd occurrences start to escalate and become too big to ignore. The kitchen gets completely rearranged, all the family photos disappear, Lacy loses 6 hours of time with no recollection of where or what she did during it, and too top it off flocks of birds attack the house. Lacy seems to be on track when she suspects that something or someone is entering the house to terrorize her family. Daniel is the skeptic that refuses to believe that some supernatural force in their home. Lacy, determined to convince Daniel she is right, finds Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons), a paranormal expert, through an Internet search. Meanwhile, the children are experiencing both physical and mental afflictions that doctors can’t explain.
Once Lacy and Daniel visit with Edwin and give him a detailed account of the strange occurrences in their home, he is finally able to shed some light on what is really happening. Edwin gives the traumatized husband and wife instructions on how to stop the supernatural forces but also forewarns that what is happening to them is very difficult to escape and the likelihood for a normal life for them going forward is almost out of the question.
Dark Skies does create a dark and eerie mood with its soundtrack, dark lighting, and camera angles that are most effective on scenes taking place in the night. There are quick unexpected sightings of what is actually causing all the commotions that do cause one to jump just a little. The movie moves along slowly building up suspense but unfortunately the sizzle fizzles as the plot line is revealed.
Keri Russell will not win any awards for her performance but is actually quite convincing as the frazzled mother trying to solve the mystery of what is happening in her household. Josh Hamilton gives an earnest performance as the confused doubting husband that is trying to find a logical explanation for all the weird stuff plaguing his family. Dakota Goyo is cast nicely as a rebellious teen trying to come of age amidst all the chaos. Cute and a bit off beat, Kadan Rockett holds his own against his older actors and adds a nice touch of innocence to his role as the younger child that actually seems to have some clue of what not to do to make the powers-that-be angry. J.K. Simmons has a small role but is great as the expert who consults with the parents, but his presence on the screen never takes away from the main characters. The focus is largely on the very likeable Barrett family. Keeping the cast small and the story concentrated on just the few characters is an attractive feature of this thriller.
Dark Skies starts off nicely but once the mystery starts to unfold the movie just seems to fall flat. There are points that make no sense such as forces that seem to magically walk through doors and walls but then suddenly need to unscrew hinges in order to enter back into the house. How is it possible that glaring bright lights illuminate the neighborhood in the middle of the day and with the exception of the Barretts no one else seems to notice this odd event? There is really nothing fresh and new about Dark Skies since many of the elements in the movie designed to scare the pants off moviegoers has been done many times before. This is one of those films that will hold your attention for a bit but won’t give the chills that horror fans so anxiously seek.