Sunday, October 27, 2013

Horror Film Review

Dark Skies (2013):   Alien abduction flick from the folks who brought you Insidious.  It shows.  Every scene, every set piece might as well have been lifted from a haunted house movie.  Not that aliens can't be scary, but "grays" straight out of The X-Files?  I want to believe...but there are limits.

Weird doings in the Barrett household.  Three separate flocks of starlings kamikaze themselves, foodstuffs and utensils are found stacked in impossible Jenga-like columns, youngest son Sam (Kadan Rockett) starts experiencing inexplicable fugues,  and before long mom Lacy (Keri Russell), dad Daniel (Josh Hamilton), and teenage son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) have their own missing time episodes.  Daniel has an implant rash, Sam's little body becomes a patchwork of bruises...source unknown, Lacy's just freaking out in general, and Jesse is doing the teen boy sulk routine.  Sam, however, seems to be the focus of the unseen force's attentions, prompting his parents to seek out expert Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons) who basically tells the Barretts they're completely screwed because once the aliens take an interest in you, one of you is going to be abducted.  And all indicators point to Sam as being the most likely candidate. 

Their suburban neighbors think they're nuts, but the Barretts take up arms and barricade themselves inside the house as they await the inevitable incursion.  When it comes, it turns out Sam isn't the target after all.  And we find out that shotguns are about as useful against aliens as a water pistol.  If they want you, they're going to take you, and they do.

I'm ambivalent toward the treatment of an alien abduction tale told via the haunted house medium.  It's effective, but feels wrong somehow.  Hard to explain.  What bugged me about the film was the use of a classic horror flick conceit:  anyone engaging in illicit behavior must become a victim.  Jesse smoked a little weed and touched a boob so naturally he's the one who gets snatched and hauled away for experimentation or worse.  Silly.

The Skinny

Acting:  Performances are uniformly acceptable.  Simmons, however, seems bored.
Story:  Nothing new to see here.  Unless you've been living under a rock.
Direction:  It's not exactly lackadaisical.  I'll go so far as to say snappy, even. 
Production Values:  It was made for only a few million but has the feel of a much more expensive film. 
Gore/FX:  Nothing gross.  The CGI used for the aliens isn't totally cheesy but it's in the same zip code.  Should have used costumes and make-up. 
Scares:  There are. 
Ending:  The walkie-talkie Sam used to use with Jesse comes to life months later and the voice coming through sounds vaguely like that of a teenage boy screaming Sam's name.  Is this supposed to instill a sense of hope?  Or just be creepy and sad?  It's left up to you.
Verdict:  Should you see Dark Skies?  It's got enough going for it to give a try.  But if you're like me, you'll keep expecting Mulder and Scully to show up and kick some ET butt. 

Rating:  3 out of 5

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