Starring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo
You may like this if you like: Insidious (James Wan, 2012), Sinister (Scott Derrickson, 2012), Signs (M. Night Shyamalan, 2002)
The Barret family is your usual nuclear family with two children. Due to the father’s (Josh Hamilton) recent redundancy they are struggling to pay the bills while their two sons experience the usual problems of childhood. Meanwhile a serious of increasingly disturbing and inexplicable incidents occur in their house, leading to each member having blackouts and acting in a way beyond recognition. Further investigation into these events and a meeting with an apparent ‘expert’ (J.K. Simmons) suggest the cause of these events may be due to a horrifying and extra terrestrial force they will never understand.
It seems that these days the horror genre is something of a close knit fraternity. Every poster of every film seems to mention that it has something to do with individuals that had something to with other horror films. In this case it is apparently the producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Unfortunately there is often an air of familiarity in all these films as they seem to use the same (admittedly safe) clichés and gimmicks. Dark Skies is no exception, being very textbook as it carefully seems to tick off those horror cliché boxes. However, despite the very workmanlike approach I personally found Dark Skies to be a perfectly watchable, well made, well acted and overall solid, if overly familiar, genre piece.
Personally what I felt worked best about Dark Skies is the four characters. Not only does this family face the same relatable problems in life many us do such as economic hardship, but I found that I genuinely cared for them. All four turn in excellent performances and their characters are developed well enough for us to really like them. Indeed, Dark Skies is quite a slow burner allowing us to know our protagonists and the shocks are few at first but gradually increase.
As for the shocks, there are some very effective moments. Though there may be some similarities to Paranormal Activity, Dark Skies is thankfully not found footage and there is genuine tension. Helped by the solid performances, there is a good atmosphere and the scene with birds continuing to fly into the windows is a particularly effective stand out scene. I did genuinely find myself sharing the confusion and intrigue of the Barret family.
As the plot develops and clichés are ticked off Dark Skies is solid more than ever genuinely creepy, but a consistently watchable film nevertheless. The ending may annoy some and it is best not to ask too many questions as quite frankly, there is no attempt at any answers which for me prevents this film from ever being anymore than a solid 5/10.
Dark Skies is a very watchable, well acted, solid horror film. The slow pace allows effective character development and though it may not necessarily make you jump out of your seat, it never gets boring.