After his first two feature films -- Legion
-- tanked at the box office, director Scott Stewart eschewed their large-scale, effects-heavy, action-y format in favor of Dark Skies
, a more intimate spook-fest in line with producer Jason Blum's recent string of horror hits (the Paranormal Activity franchise
) -- and the world is a better place for it.
One summer, the seemingly typical suburbanite members of the Barrett family begin experiencing strange occurrences -- mysterious break-ins, birds flying into their house, blackouts, unexplained bruises -- much of which youngest son Sam (Kadan Rockett) explains is the work of an imaginary friend named the Sandman. As the incidents increase in frequency and intensity, however, mom Lacy (Keri Russell) begins to suspect Sam is being targeted for abduction by aliens. Although dad Daniel (Josh Hamilton) is initially skeptical, the evidence becomes too overwhelming for him to ignore, and with the help of alien expert Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons), they try to figure out how to protect Sam and his older brother Jesse (Dakota Goyo) before it's too late.
The End Result
Keri Russell in 'Dark Skies'.© Dimension
Dark Skies is a splendid continuation of Blum's line of sub-$5 million "micro-budget" fright film productions (Granted, you may argue with Hollywood's "creative math.") that don't skimp on glitz, talent or impact. It maintains the intimate, classic "spooky house" feel of Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister, and with its alien theme, plays a lot like Insidious meets Signs. As with Blum's other genre work, the scares are well constructed and not over-reliant on cheap jump scares. Stewart's direction and script build steady tension as the as the alien encounters grown increasingly ominous, but he also manages to convey a sense of humanity in characters who grapple with everyday struggles like money, sex and pubescent growing pains. The end result is well-rounded, scary and smart (despite a weak climactic twist that is so obvious throughout the film that I never anticipated it would be used as a twist) with a heart.
- Acting: B- (The adults are great; the kids a bit stiff.)
- Direction: B (Attractively shot with tense anticipation and well-staged scares.)
- Script: B- (Lack of originality and a lackluster twist can't diminish a tense, swiftly paced mystery.)
- Gore/Effects: C+ (Modest gore; a few nice CGI effects.)
- Overall: B- (Nothing new in the Blum oeuvre, but well executed with the type of scares you've come to expect from the producer.)
Dark Skies is directed by Scott Stewart and is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language -- all involving teens . Release date: February 22, 2013.