Dark Skies

By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: February 22, 2013
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From the producers of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister comes Dark Skies: a supernatural thriller that follows a young family living in the suburbs. As husband and wife Daniel and Lacey Barret witness an escalating series of disturbing events involving their family, their safe and peaceful home quickly unravels. When it becomes clear that the Barret family is being targeted by an unimaginably terrifying and deadly force, Daniel and Lacey take matters in their own hands to solve the mystery of what is after their family.
Film Review
It is the honest truth that I do not cover very many, if any, horror movies. This is in part thanks to the incredible James Jay Edwards whom I refer to as the "FilmFracture Horror Aficionado." But it is also because I do not care much for modern day horror movies. The remakes of classic horror films aggravates me and the original ideas never appeal to me on any level, usually. Perhaps I have grown out of loving horror movies, and if that is the case it is a sad thing to accept. In order to remember what it is like to watch a horror movie I do go on occasion, and my first of 2013 just happened to be Dark Skies, from the producers of such recent scare-fests Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister. I am the first to admit that I was not expecting much--I even warned my movie companion for the screening that the likelihood Dark Skies was going to be terrible was more than probable. Then we watched it. Dark Skies is surprisingly a respectable thriller/horror movie, if you prefer the more psychological horror schtick to the blood and violence of say, a slasher picture. I definitely do.

Dark Skies is centered around a suburban family who is facing hard times with a past-due mortgage, out of work father, and struggling real estate agent mother--the house she is currently trying to sell should be put in a 70s retro museum, right down to the green and yellow wallpaper, hideous flower couch, and super shag carpeting. Times are tough for the Barrett family, and they are about to get a lot harder when a "presence" called simply "The Sandman" by the youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett), begins making appearances in his dreams and strange occurrences happen around the house. The first of which involves a large amount of food being eaten from the fridge and tossed on the floor--Sandman likes lettuce, but not bacon (the horror!). Things only get more strange, and less explainable. It is not only Sam that is affected; his mother Lacy (Keri Russell), father Daniel (Josh Hamilton), and older brother Jesse (Dakota Goyo) all have their moments of possession, uncontrollable actions, or downright strange behavior. In Jesse's case you can blame it all on his watching of soft-core pornography early on in the film, or because he has been given a perfect head of hair--take your pick. As a viewer you are full of theories from start to finish, and what you think is happening is not what will happen. The twist in Dark Skies is actually quite great; so is the massive bird attack on the home and the overall unsettling feeling the movie provokes.

If you can recall the feeling of tension, undeniable stress, familial strife mingled with fear, and the overall chilling sensation that occurred while watching Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind you will have a very good idea of the tone Dark Skies emits. A great mystery is afoot, and the strange actions by everyone in the family are perplexing. They are also quite funny. Keri Russell banging her head into a glass door repeatedly looks painful, and a tad bit frightening, but its also hilarious. It's not easy to achieve humor in a horror movie without losing the seriousness of the story; Dark Skies manages to do it, and do it well. The answers are out there, in pure science fiction fashion that includes a brief cameo by solidified character actor J.K. Simmons, brimmed hat and all, as Edwin Pollard. He knows what is happening to the Barrett family, and how they may be able to stop it--the emphasis being on may as once the horror is upon you from the enemy in Dark Skies you cannot escape it, but you can try and fight. A shotgun may help, or boarding up the windows, but when something wants in its going to get in, and thats all part of the fun in Dark Skies.
Scary Factor
I for one did not find Dark Skies very frightening, aside from a few jumps here and there that are executed quite well by director/screenwriter Scott Stewart and composer Joseph Bishara, even if they are predictable. Including Paranormal Activity-type cameras in the home set-up only amplifies the fear of what will be seen when the footage plays back. The tension is built up throughout the film, but it also breaks up quite nicely to make the movie more than a spook fest without substance. There is actual familial strife, problems that need to be dealt with, and an overall sense of fear by the parents when more and more is learned as to how their sons are being affected by the "Sandman" and his friends. Dark Skies plays on your psyche to expose greater fears than just what goes bump in the night; it wants you to fear what continues to manipulate you when the sun comes up. All of this is done without blood and gore, but it does have plenty of tricks up its sleeve. If you have seen the trailer you'll recognize a couple of things, like the hallowing of eyes and being put into trances. That's only the beginning, and the scenes work out much better once you know the specific context they exist within.

But the question remains as to whether Dark Skies is scary. If you asked my movie companion he would positively say "yes, I was spooked the entire time." He even jumped a few times out of his seat. If you asked the women sitting behind us who spent the majority of the film expressing their fright to one another in between muffled screams and exclamations as to how "this movie is too much to handle," then yes, Dark Skies deserved the extra clock I would have given it solely based on my own experience. Dark Skies makes use a variety of horror genre staples to get you to jump, cover your eyes, or fear what is behind the door. The use of "we see it coming, they don't" is great with the characters when Sandman is lurking--one scene with Keri Russell in the hallway of the home will have you laughing and whimpering with fear at the same time. The enemy itself is not frightening in its appearance, its all the movie magic used around it from lighting, sound, direction, and a heavy use of bass to give everything an extra jolt felt right down to the floor of your seat that enables Dark Skies to make you afraid of what is lurking in your home when you get back from watching the movie.

Horror, Thriller
Release Date
February 22, 2013
MPAA Rating
PG 13
Production Designer
Music Score