Monday, June 10, 2013

Dark Skies

Whenever a film is successful there will always be a glut of lame ass imitators. A couple of years back Insidious scared the living shit out of audiences without having to resort to CGI trickery or gore. It also was a runaway success (with a very cool looking sequel coming soon) so of course someone would attempt to rip it off in order to get a piece of the action. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Dark Skies.

The Barrett family (Josh Hamilton, Keri Russell, Dakota Goyo and Kadan Rockett) begin to experience strange happenings around their home that lead them to believe that they are being visited by malevolent extraterrestrials for some unknown purpose.
Dark Skies recipe:
A generous helping of Insidious
A box of Fire in the Sky
A cup of Paranormal Activity
A dash of Poltergeist

Mix in a blender and apply randomly to script.

The result is a very unoriginal film that barely manages to provide any scares. Even the title is taken from a television show from the 90s that involved alien abductions. Entire scenes are stolen from better flicks and the filmmakers aren’t even subtle in how they blatantly plagiarize them. There’s a scene where Lacy, played by Keri Russell, investigates a noise in the kitchen late at night and finds that all her appliances and dinnerware have been arranged in an impromptu work of art on her dining room table, just like the chairs in Poltergeist. Dialogue is taken right from that scene and repeated verbatim as well, just with “The TV People” swapped out with “Mr. Sandman”. It’s quite pathetic.
Writer/Director Scott Stewart has never been one for originality or even making a decent movie for that matter. Ever seen Legion or Priest? Yup, that was this dude. Each flick borrowed ideas and/or scenes from better movies and were barely watchable (I am told the Defiance pilot he directed for the SyFy Channel was quite horrific as well). While he does manage to wring some decent performances out of his actors from time to time as well as manage to capture a spooky looking shot now and then, the whole project just feels dated and stale from the outset. There’s nothing of note to say about it other than it was a movie that I didn’t switch off. He didn’t make a bad movie. In fact I’d say that it’s probably the best overall feature he’s made so far in his career. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to strive for anything other than mediocrity. At least there wasn’t a character named “Jeep” this time around.

Keri Russell gives a great performance, clearly trying to take her film career to the next level. I bought into her situation due to her realistic reactions to events and believed that she honestly felt that aliens were the cause of her family’s woes. Why she doesn’t appear in more movies is beyond me. Josh Hamilton doesn’t fare so well and looks like he’s bored. I’ve never thought much of him as an actor (he was the weakest link in Alive as far as I was concerned) and he does nothing to change my mind here. Sure there are some moments when he manages to pull a rabbit out of his hat and make me believe he’s playing a part and not himself, but they are few and far between. The child actors that play his kids are more convincing by a long shot. J.K. Simmons makes a brief appearance as an alien expert/abductee, but the script does him no favors since he is given dialogue straight from episodes of The X-Files and zero personality.
I will admit that there was one event in this movie that surprised me – the ending. While I will not go into spoiler territory I will say that I did not expect the ending to be as ballsy as it was since the rest of the flick plays it so damned safe.

I didn’t hate Dark Skies even though I did nothing but complain about it in this review. I was just completely underwhelmed by it. I have seen it all before in better movies and the lack of creativity and originality really irked me. The sad thing is that this movie could have been cool with a different writer/director combo. It might have been a good idea for Stewart to hand his script over to someone else for a rewrite or two. There are some cool moments that are mildly scary and Keri Russell is her usual awesome self. Despite these minor pros, Stewart hasn’t made a film yet that I can legitimately say I enjoyed. Buck up dude or you’re going to the hell of straight-to-SyFy schlock.

1.5 out of 5

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