Visual effects specialist turned writer-director, Scott Stewart, leaves behind the apocalyptic folklore of his previous films (Legion, Priest) in favour of a more traditional sci-fi horror in this latest offering, Dark Skies.
The day to day life of the Barrett family is interrupted by a series of strange and unexplained events. When their fridge is raided and objects begin to disappear, all under the cover of darkness, Lacy (Keri Russell) and Daniel (Josh Hamilton) begin to suspect their youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett). But, as the weird happenings escalate, the Barrett family realise this is the work of something much more sinister.
Stewart’s Dark Skies tussles with the two genres of traditional horror and science fiction, giving audiences some genuinely creepy moments and jump inducing scares. The use of sound is particularly good with penetrating high frequencies and booming alarm sounds creating an atmosphere of inescapable tension.
Unfortunately, none of this is new and what Dark Skies lacks is blistering originality. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of The X-Files will be able to recognise these strange events at a simple glance and the token injection of the family’s financial concerns does little to bring this well-known story into the modern age. Even so, the principal cast put in solid performances that make Dark Skies a gripping watch.
Given the familiarity of this tale, it’s surprising that it takes the Barrett family so long to catch on to the identity of their assailants - something that crosses over into frustrating as the film approaches its final act. Yet these characters - who do not want to believe - play into Stewart’s horror-inspired approach by facilitating, in all their naivety, the film’s most hair-raising moments. As such, Stewart’s unsuspecting characters become something of a double-edged sword. The result is an obvious and sudden shift towards the science-fiction angle as the film nears its conclusion - a shift that comes close to destroying the film’s cumulative suspense.
Here enters the quirky and obsessive ‘expert’, nicely underplayed by J.K Simmons. It’s a neat cameo, reminiscent of X-Files’ style fanatics, and one that fuses together the film’s horror and sci-fi elements, but answers a few too many questions.
Dark Skies is a familiar tale relayed from an intriguing point of view and bolstered by solid performances from its cast. Stewart’s horror influenced style brings with it plenty of creepy and jump inducing moments, but Dark Skies is ultimately thwarted by an unoriginal, checklist approach to its unnatural events.
Running Time: 97 minutes