Dark Skies is the latest paranormal horror film to come from the Blumhouse Productions company. Scott Stewart’s slow-burn alien abduction film unfortunately suffers from too much build up and not nearly enough payoff, resulting in a film with a creepy and oftentimes thick atmosphere, but one that’s also rarely on point and almost always dipping into genre cliches whenever the chance presents itself. Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton deserve credit for their convincing performances, but sadly they’re both wasted on a film that just never adds up.
Lacy (Keri Russell) and Daniel (Josh Hamilton) Barrett are a normal married couple. They have a few kids and are currently struggling with some financial situations, much like most everyday Americans. Lacy sells homes for a living, while Daniel is attempting to land a job to help support the family. Things are stressful, but nothing that they can’t currently manage.
Suddenly, their lives get turned upside down as they begin experiencing a series of unexplainable events. It starts out as freak occurrences, but slowly escalates into a full-fledged problem that starts to seep into their own mental wellness. Birds are crashing into their house at random and both Daniel and Lacy suddenly start to experience extreme bloody noses and frequent blackouts. The police can’t help and the only real man that seems to know anything about their situation is pointing towards extra-terrestrial activity.
The two decide to do whatever they can to ensure their safety and to find out what these possible aliens want with them and their family. Is it too late to stop these out-of-world forces or are Lacy and Daniel strong enough to keep their family together through this difficult time?
Scott Stewart’s Dark Skies is a very traditional horror movie in the sense that it relies heavily on build up. Stewart takes advantage of his actors and his sets and his creepy musical score. He allows all of these pluses to blend together for an atmospheric thriller that has some generally frightening moments. Dark Skies is effective in the sense that it knows how to scare you properly and evenly.
And that might be the biggest compliments I can give it. Stewart certainly knows how to capture the right mood and to make a film that’s slow and yet still somewhat interesting. The rest of Dark Skies unfortunately doesn’t hold up to this setup that Stewart has constructed. The film’s main plot is thin and mostly full of over-used alien cliches, while the ending boasts a unique closure that’s ultimately weighed down by a lack of reveal.
Things never really wrap up and instead remain opened and unanswered. This would be fine if Stewart conveyed things a little better, but Dark Skies feels like the aftermath of the recent paranormal/cheap horror craze. It feels like a film that was made on the cheap end and in a hurry, which makes these loose ends suddenly make sense from a studio point of view.
From an audience standpoint Dark Skies is simply another horror film that starts out with promise, but quickly rushes into the “same old shit” category that so many widely released horror films tend to land in. It’s unfortunate, but far from unexpected, especially when you look at Stewart’s previous directing credits — Legion and Priest.
Dark Skies is nothing more than a failed attempt at a slow-burn horror film. The acting is good and the direction is mostly consistent, but the film’s constant lack of progression holds it back and makes it become more of a chore than an actual pulse-pounding suspense film. The alien designs are half-assed whenever they are shown and the entire plot rides on mystery with no intentions of ever revealing a single thing.
Anchor Bay’s 1080p video transfer isn’t going to grab your attention, but it does deserve points for being so consistent and smooth. The film features a lot of nighttime scenes and the result is a transfer that’s full of blues and blacks and not much warmth. Skin tones and general texture are clear and easy to make out, but nothing ever jumps off the screen.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track will have you checking behind the sofa every ten minutes. Seriously, this is such a well-balanced track that’s full of activity and deep range. The back channels feature all sorts of subtle noise effects, while the front channels pile onto that, while also holding down the dialogue. I love tracks like this, because they really help add a layer of realism that only makes the scary stuff that much more effective.
Here’s a list of bonus content found in this combo pack:
- Audio Commentary
- Alternate and Deleted Scenes (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Dark Skies starts out strong, but quickly fizzles out — much like most studio-funded PG-13 horror films. It’s the result of the popular alien craze that has taken over our culture yet again and unfortunately director Scott Stewart doesn’t capitalize with anything highly original or even remotely entertaining. Dark Skies is sluggish and lazy and eventually becomes a complete bore. It’s too bad, because Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton are clearly trying their hardest as the couple with a massive checklist of problems.
There’s absolutely no reason why one would waste their time on a film like Dark Skies. It does nothing for the genre, aside from maybe giving it a PG-13 horror film that doesn’t rely solely on jump scares and instead attempts to build up proper terror by way of character building and slow reveals. The film never reaches that point where things start to come together or make sense in a broader stroke. Things just meander into pointless territory, leaving you with no answers or no clue as to why you just wasted an hour and a half of your life on the film in the first place.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.
Dark Skies is a slow-burn paranormal horror film that spends way too much time on setup and not enough on reveal. It's rarely scary, but does boast a thick atmosphere and an interesting ending.