On a cold, wet Saturday afternoon, this intrepid journalist ventured down to Metro Movies to sit in a similarly cold, wet room (there was a leak in the ceiling) and survey the new alien horror movie “Dark Skies.” I entered the theater with extremely low expectations. The ads I had seen on TV had no positive blurbs, which I learned was because they had not had an advance screening—usually a bad sign.
Some of the film’s moments confirmed my original suspicion, but overall, I was pleasantly surprised—though again, that didn’t take much. “Dark Skies” proved to be a competently made thriller that was admittedly quite terrifying at times. My heart raced fairly often, as writer/director Scott Stewart did a good job setting up classic bait-and-switches and red herrings.
“Dark Skies” came from the producers of “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious,” and their influence weighs heavily throughout the new film, most notably in the security camera footage. The film takes place in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, with the film’s climax taking place the night of. The nods to existing alien films betray Stewart’s intention to make a smaller, more intimate “Independence Day” for an audience that responded well to the found footage premise of “Paranormal Activity.” It reiterates the message of “Independence Day”: that it’s important to stick together in the face of an alien menace, this time as a family rather than as a country.
One huge similarity between “Dark Skies” and the “Paranormal Activity” movies is the feeling of having lived in the family’s house for years before the camera followed them running around their home. The home is already strained with the usual suburban strife: gossip, money issues, a son getting in with a bad crowd, etc. The actors, including Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, and Dakota Goyo in the main roles, convey these tensions well, amplifying the drama of their family dynamic with sleepwalking and disturbing dreams.
Overall, “Dark Skies” is a fine but forgettable movie. Though it contains nothing in the way of groundbreaking material or Oscar-worthy acting, it’s enjoyable enough to sit through. It may not be worth the price of admission to see it on the big screen, and there certainly weren’t many audience members this rainy Saturday afternoon, but if you’re looking for a cheap, fun thrill ride, “Dark Skies” will satisfy.