Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dark Skies (2013)

**This review contains spoilers**

Struggling with past due mortgage notices and the plight of unsteady jobs, Lacy Barrett (Keri Russell) and Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) are trying to hold everything together. Their oldest teenage son, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) is stuck in a stubborn rebellious phase, and their youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett) continues to dream about mysterious visits from “The Sandman.”

As Daniel fights to secure a higher paying job, the Barrett’s become the victims of nightly intrusions. Sam blames The Sandman, but Lacy investigates to find the reasons behind the odd break-ins. Lacy’s sleuthing leads her to the conclusion of an alien invasion and planned abduction, but Daniel is hesitant to believe his wife at first. But after a meeting with Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons), a UFO expert, Daniel prepares to protect his family from a potential abduction. And the situation becomes more serious, when Lacy and Daniel discover the main target for The Grey's (another name for the species of aliens targeting The Barretts) looming abduction: Sam.

Keri Russell easily delivers the best performance in the leading role, and the rest of the cast is decent enough. But Goyo is kind of annoying as the rebellious teenage punk. J.K. Simmons’ screen time is limited to cameo status. It’s a shame, because the Edwin character had some real promise as the eccentric and obsessed alien expert.

Before I move on, I have to point out a bizarre connection to Signs. Towards the end, Daniel FINALLY believes Lacy’s suspicions of an alien invasion. Lacy buys a dog, Daniel picks up a shotgun at the local gun store, and Daniel boards up the house to keep The Greys at bay for a while. On the night of the big invasion/abduction, Daniel, Lacy, and the kids are sitting around the table eating dinner, or their “last meal.” Daniel reminisces about the births of his two sons, and he retells stories from Sam and Jesse’s childhoods.  The aliens start to break through the boards, the dog starts barking like crazy, and Lacy rushes the kids upstairs, while Daniel fires the shotgun every five seconds. Eventually, the entire family hides in one room, and Daniel prepares for the last stand against the aliens.

In Signs, Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix barricade the house with wooden boards on the night of an invasion, preparing for the last stand against the aliens. Merrill (Phoenix) and the kids had to convince Graham (Gibson) to believe in the possibility of an alien invasion. During the family’s last meal, and the alien’s intrusion, Graham reminisces about the births of his kids, and he retells childhood memories. As the aliens approach the house, the dog starts barking, but the aliens murder the dog (guessing, because they don’t actually show the aliens harming the dog in Signs). Graham, Merrill, and the kids hide in the basement, and they prepare for the last stand.

PLEASE, tell me I’m not the only one, who noticed the similarities? Both scenarios are SO similar. The guy doesn’t want to believe in the possibility of aliens, so someone close had to convince him. The man of the house has to find his courage to protect the family in a last stand, while recalling precious memories one last time. The aliens target a kid in BOTH films, and the family in Dark Skies has a dog! Again, I’m probably jumping to wild conclusions. I’m not accusing Scott Stewart (the writer and director for Dark Skies) of plagiarism, but as the grand finale unfolded, I started connecting the dots to Signs, and the similarities just blew me away.

And speaking of the grand finale, there’s a nice twist at the end. So the story wants you to believe the aliens are coming after Sam, they won‘t take no for an answer, and the foreshadowing is VERY obvious. Well, when they aliens finally show up in a big group at the end, they are determined to take one kid from Lacy and Daniel…..but Jesse is the victim, not Sam. Through a series of flashbacks, Dark Skies pieces together the puzzle for the reasons behind Jesse’s abduction, and this twist was genuinely shocking for me, because I didn’t see it coming.

The trailers kind of worried me a few months ago, but when you actually see the footage in the movie, everything is different. The scene where Kerri Russell bangs her head against the glass door is really creepy and unsettling. The scene with the flock of birds crashing into the house is short, but at the same time, it’s intense, and Russell’s panicked reaction pulled everything together. 

Is Dark Skies a great movie? No. No, it’s not. In fact, if you plan on watching this film, you should wait for the DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, or wait for the release on various internet VOD services. BUT Dark Skies surprised the hell out of me. Truth be told, I went into this film with very low expectations, but Dark Skies is an enjoyable sci-fi thriller. Stewart provides the perfect chilling and eerie atmosphere throughout this film, and Dark Skies features a few decent jump scares every now and then. Although, the overexposure and the annoying “THIS IS WHAT THE ALIENS ARE PLANNING. WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING!!!” foreshadowing really irritated me at times. Still, Dark Skies held my attention for one hour and thirty-five minutes, and I was on the edge of my seat during the pulse-pounding finale.    

 Final Rating: 7/10

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