‘Dark Skies’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 18th, 2014 at 3:39 am,

Dark Skies Reviews starring Keri Russell Josh Hamilton and Dakota Goyo 2013 Dark Skies Review

A strong rental or matinee experience; questionable call for that prime time or late-night theatrical fright flick thrill.

[NOTE: For those of you who want an opinion on Dark Skies with as little knowledge of the plot as possible – skip down to the final paragraph for a summary and score. For those unconcerned with basic plot details – read on.]

Dark Skies centers Lucy and Daniel Barrett (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton), suburban parents just trying to get by and provide for their sons, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett). The struggles of normal life become extraordinary when the Barretts start to experience strange phenomena occurring around their house: items from the cupboard arranged in impossible geometry, alarms set off by phantoms, items missing without sign of theft, etc.

Soon aggravation becomes outright terror as the Barretts find their children – and even themselves – falling victim to alarming physical and mental afflictions. That desperate situation pushes them to consider desperate ideas about what it is, exactly, that’s attacking their family and desperate measures about how to stop it.

The latest creation of Legion and Priest director Scott Stewart, Dark Skies is easily commendable for being Stewart’s best genre-blending experiment; though that’s not to say it’s an outstanding movie. A somewhat slow build to a predictable and underwhelming conclusion, the film is nonetheless a satisfyingly creepy ride – even if the ultimate destination isn’t all that exciting.

Josh Hamilton in Dark Skies 2013 Dark Skies Review

Josh Hamilton in ‘Dark Skies’

Where Legion and Priest attempted to offer the sort of action/horror blockbuster experience of a Resident Evil flick (low-hanging fruit…), Dark Skies instead takes the sci-fi premise of an alien abduction story and conveys it in the crescendo format of Paranormal Activity and all its many copycats within the found-footage horror (not so coincidentally, the movie is produced by the makers of PA, Sinister, Insidious, etc…). Thankfully we have no faux-documentary headaches to worry about here, but the night-to-night episodic progression of frights certainly carries the thumbprint of the currently popular sub-genre of horror filmmaking.

Stewart and cinematographer David Boyd (Walking Dead,  Sons of Anarchy and the upcoming Marvel S.H.I.E.L.D. TV pilot) certainly create a darkly rich visual palette that entices the eye. In other words: the film is great to look at, and the use of light, shadow, tracking and angling makes many of the nighttime (and daytime) scares pretty effective, if occasionally telegraphed. “Scares” might be a strong word; “creep outs” or “eye openers” is probably more accurate description of what this movie offers. More goosebumps than screams.

Our director is also our script writer and Stewart also turns in what is arguably his best work (thus far) in this area, as well. There is actual relatable and grounded family drama at the core of this scary story – keeping things interesting even when the terror is on the off-beat, and making the moments of terror or danger that more compelling because the investment in the characters (the family) is solid.

Keri Russell and Kadan Rockett in Dark Skies 2013 Dark Skies Review

Keri Russell and Kadan Rockett in ‘Dark Skies’

While the characters themselves are only so-so in terms of dimension or depth, they’re far better than the average thin caricatures trotted out for these sorts of films. Unfortunately, the biggest reveals of the story are foreshadowed too early and way too obviously; by the time we actually get to the “climax,” we’re mostly there for validation rather than shock or surprise. An epilogue section to the film further adds an unneeded dose of hokeyness to what was (up to that point) an effectively spooky experience. That all said, Dark Skies does pull off some narrative and character arcs that are competent and complete.

The individual characters in the Barrett family are also more likable thanks to some solid actors in the roles. Keri Russell may not win big accolades for Dark Skies, but no one told her that beforehand; she carries the bulk of the intensity and pulls off the increasingly panic-stricken matriarch arc without a hint of overacting or melodrama. In many ways she bolsters the core aspects of the narrative – though her co-star Josh Hamilton (Away We Go) is certainly there to lend a hand. Hamilton has to play the down-and-out skeptic, but manages to bring hints of real depth and vulnerability to the patriarch role. All in all, the family dynamics rest on a sound foundation.

Josh Hamilton and Kadan Rockett in Dark Skies 2013 Dark Skies Review

Real Steel star Dakota Goyo has talent, and offers a nicely layered portrait of a modern young teen as Jesse. When the latter half of the narrative opens up a bit to include more of young Jesse, Goyo certainly holds up his end. Kadan Rockett is too young to match the acting savvy of his co-stars, but is yet another good casting as a kid who can easily oscillate between creepy and cute – a quality which serves in delivering some of the film’s freakiest moments. Other actors like JK Simmons (Spider-Man<) show up here and there, but Stewart smartly keeps the focus on the Barretts for most of the screen time.

In the end, Dark Skies will be a pretty good time for anyone who understands what they’re getting with this sci-fi/horror fence-rider. Hardcore fans of either genre are not likely to be satisfied with the half bits the film provides – and the ending will shock (or thrill) very few viewers. A strong rental or matinee experience; questionable call for that prime time or late-night theatrical fright flick thrill.

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Dark Skies is now playing in theaters. It is 97 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language – all involving teens. 

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

Follow Kofi Outlaw on Twitter @ppnkof
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  1. I found it to almost be a rehashing of Signs, the family dynamic, the walkie talkies, boarding up window, the “last dinner” scene. And even the Aliens looked almost the same. I agree it was a satisfying creepy movie, I’m still waiting for that truly terrifying alien abducction/invasion movie

    • Watch The Fourth Kind. Scared the crap outta me

      • Te fourth kind was extremely creepy. I actually watched that while living in my sisters guest house which was located in the back yard rigt next to forests and trees. Super creepy. Haven’t watched that movie again lol

        But signs is one of my all time favorite alien movies.

        I forgot this came out all together ill have to check it out.

      • yeah loved it.

      • Communion with Christopher Walken, now that is really creepy.

      • the Fourth Kind was a crappy movie, and was complete b*******! It was not based on any real events! They say it was, but was not at all!

    • I loved this movie it really creeped me out cause its how people r really abducted on real life and this movie represents me a lot I’m a real.alien.abductee and the greys r real and the fourth kind was bullsh!!!!! Cause they all said it was based on true alien abductions and it was not but I know u don’t see the grey aliens in this movie or the ufos or anything like that but u do see the grey aliens dark figures which is also creepy as hell!!!! Anyway I have grey aliens tattooed on me and I was really abducted by them too no lie I don’t bullsh!!!!!!!

  2. while the cgi is pretty cool to show supernatural effects
    and the manifestations of the creatures & monsters & stuff.
    These flicks are using it waaaaay too much
    to where they’re not really as much scary as they should be.
    Where’s the eeriness, where’s the subtlety,
    where’s the sudden surprise, the uncertain mysteries of wariness
    and fear of the unseen/unknown?
    these movies have forgotten the essence that made them what they were, and replaced it with lingering effects,
    they seem to have forgotten that the more you see the monsters (literally and metaphorically) the less scary they are and the scenario is.
    personally, on that account, I as well would give it a 2.5,.. out of 10.
    sorry hollywood, but you have yet again, failed the world of cinema.

    • “A somewhat slow build to a predictable and underwhelming conclusion, the film is nonetheless a satisfyingly creepy ride – even if the ultimate destination isn’t all that exciting.”

      That’s the review, fundamentally saying “this is a mediocre film but all we can expect from contemporary filmmakers who get the funding to finance the production.”

      If moviemakers, movie critics and moviegoers are “settling” for moderate quality in their movies, overall, what more can we expect…except more of the same.

    • Oh and I hope they really do make a part 2 and when they do pleaseeeeeeee show the grey aliens more this time I wanna see them up close and more clear too and also at the ending when Jesse got takin up in the light by the grey aliens that was cooled of all so they have to make s part 2 and who knows the grey aliens may bring Jesse barret back after they experiment on him like a lab rat cause they really do that to people on real life like they did me believe me or not I’m telling the truth I’m a believer and an abductee as well

  3. i LOVED this movie ! seemed weird in the beginning but it all made sense. cant wait for part 2. i honestly think it wouldve been better as a tv series.!!

  4. This movie gave me serious chills 5 or 6 times. It really had me but needed a better ending. Like MAMA, I left asking myself that’s how this ends? Still, the movie is very well made (for only 3.5 mil) and David Boyd’s cinematography is outstanding. It has an 18% “grey” felling to it (hint, hint).

  5. I really Iiked this movie. While I get some of the criticism, it seems the ‘dislikes’ are planned in advance, before
    they even see the movie. Like the critics are saying ” ugh…another alien abduction movie. How can this crap be good at
    all. I mean, are there any superheroes in it ??” People who hate the sci-fi genre in general should not

    Funny, most of my friends liked it and thought it was pretty creepy. The portrayal of the aliens as shadowy, ethereal beings appearing like magic in the house is very convincing. And this film is a cut above the usual alien sic-if movies, because
    It really focuses on the family’s relations and personal struggles with this otherworldly presence in their home. Not so much
    On the usual Nuts-and-bolts…. like, Which planet are they from, or, Let’s try to blow them up ! And the physical representation of the aliens was awesome, in my opinion. Even a different sort of ‘grey’ than we usually see.

    Sure, everyone likes to pick apart all the little glitches, but what else do you expect in a movie about alien abductions?
    Not every question is meant to be answered, and the loose ends don’t really affect the Integrity of the storytelling. We are meant to identify with this family, feeling their helplessness and terror.

    Overall, I think this is one of the more intelligent musings on such a weird topic like alien abductions. And this movie does rely on the overuse of special effects or unrealistic dialogue. And the ending of course is great, a little twist that affects us just as much as the character. I was thinking at the time, “Why couldn’t I figure that out?”

    • Sorry..I meant this movie does NOT reply on the overuse of special effects….

  6. I agree with les! During the movie I was adding up all the similarities of Signs with this movie, along with the structure of the film. I actually did like the storyline, it had it’s cliche moments like the disbelieving cop…but I was freaked out at a handful of moments like the part where the employee from the theater walked down the isle during a night scene, dick! Good movie! Made me keep guessing at the end.. Is there really going to be a part 2 ?

  7. ANYONE KNOW OF AN OFFICAL Dark Skies 2 Confirmed???

  8. will there ever be a second one