Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Dark Skies

Copyright: Dimension Films
Imagine a haunted house. Now, detract ghost, demons, evil spirits or any other supernatural entities, and add E.T’s malicious cousins. This is, in essence, the plot of Dark Skies. It may sound ridicules, but it actually turned out to be a pretty decent horror movie.

The Barrett family is living a normal life in the suburbs. Daniel Barrett recently lost his job, while his wife Lacy is trying to keep the household running, as well as raise her two sons and give them a regular, happy childhood. But gradually, the Barretts start to witness a weird series of events involving their alarm system, flocks of birds and other unusual events.

They try their best to carry on living like there is nothing strange happening, but soon, the occurrences start to take up a more threatening form. Not long after that, the family begins to suspect that the forces that are haunting them are not from this world, but instead, that the came from beyond the stars.

I’m a little disappointed that the director, Scott Stewart, decided to take a more straightforward approach with this film. His earlier work, movies Legion and Priest, were not a big box office or critical successes, but they did show there is something worthwhile and fresh in Stewart. This time, he steers clear of too much CGI, which is a good thing in my perspective, but at the same time looks like he was holding himself back a bit. The directing, as well as cinematography, seems too bent on capturing some of the feel present in the Paranormal Activity franchise, a move that for me wasn’t needed for this film. Even the surveillance system that Daniel sets up in one point of the movie for me was a totally misguided and unnecessary plot device.

But, around the same time, the movie transforms from a Poltergeist type of film towards a more science fiction setting, but it doesn’t lose the scares and the frights. The character named Edwin Pollard, a secluded UFO specialist, played by J. K. Simmons, fills the shoes of the experts (in a regular horror movie, he would be a spiritual medium or something like that) - he is the person that sheds some grim light on the plight of the family. Even in his one scene, Simmons makes a bigger impression than either Josh Hamilton or Keri Russell as Daniel and Lacy Barrett.

Grounded in a well-known horror formula, Dark Skies has the advantage of a relatively uncommon figure as a horror movie adversary. Apart from that, there are subtle clues hidden in the ending sequence (the only point in the film where Stewart experimented with the narration process) that points toward a more complex and less obvious subplot, but they are not enough to hide the fact that this movie is a standard horror film, with almost all the regular motions. If you compare it to, let’s say, The Conjuring, this movie can only be described an average in every aspect. But, in this genre, decent is a lot better than the stuff we usually get.