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Dark Skies Movie Review

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Illustration by: Matthew Martin

A family with financial problems sees their life go down into a rabbit hole when they begin to be visited by aliens. Yet, “Dark Skies” is not your average alien-invasion story. It has an interesting plot that builds up a sort of awkward tension with its audience until the very end.

Written and directed by Scott Stewart, who’s known for movies like “Priest” and “Legion,” “Dark Skies” was a derivative yet engaging affair that hit the spot and gave me an hour and a half of genuine chills and thrills. It did right by me by following the two simple rules that usually make for a solid horror experience. First, it introduces compelling characters and relationships that one can care about. This one hit the nail on the head. One can relate to a lot of what the family was going through and the acting by all was right on the money; hence I cared about their fate big time.

Kudos to Keri Russell (Lacy), Josh Hamilton (Daniel), Dakota Goyo (Jesse) and Kadan Rockett (Sam). They sold me and then some as individuals of a loving family. The flick even managed to squeeze in a “it’s hard being a teenager” subplot by way of Dakota Goyo’s character’s plight which added a sense of pathos and further realism to the story. And with that on its side it gunned out rule number two: to put some endearing and credible people in harms way.

As you can probably guess, there is a fair amount of special effects featured in “Dark Skies,” though it is often left in the shadows to very effective results.  As proven in the film “Mama,” what your imagination dreams up is often much scarier than what is actually onscreen.  The effects aren’t terrible, but they’re nothing to write home about either.  Where the film ultimately falls short is in its attempt to wrap everything up nicely.  The ideas on their own were good, however once they were mixed together it just did not make a lot of sense.

“Dark Skies” has a way of building up the tension until the very end, when all the ideas mixed together leave the audience confused and not in a good way. The film seems to talk down to them and leaves them with a very bizarre open-ended conclusion. The climax also requires one of the characters to make a very foolish move and a portion of it takes the film into odd territory that’s more surreal than sci-fi.

If “Dark Skies” ultimately doesn’t explore much fresh territory for its sub-genre, it’s also better than its unscreened-in-advance status might suggest. The production is slick while remaining grounded in the reality required to center the story, and Stewart and his cast convince us to care about the characters even as if we feel like we’ve seen the forces threatening them before. Never mind what’s happening in the skies; it’s the darkness that descends within the Barretts’ household that proves most intensified here.

“Dark Skies” gets  five out of 10 dolphins.

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Dark Skies Movie Review