Review: Dark Skies / Cert: 15 / Director: Scott Stewart / Screenplay: Scott Stewart / Starring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons / Release Date: August 5th
From the mind of Scott Stewart, Dark Skies is a creepy, serious and sinister tale of a family that comes under threat from an inquisitive, mystifying, malicious force. Heading up the family are Lacy (Russell) and Daniel (Hamilton) Barrett, striving to protect their two sons (Goyo and Rockett) from the ominous presence that looks to torment the family unit. Matters take a turn for the worse when it’s revealed that Sam, the youngest of the family’s, stories of night-time visits from the ‘Sandman’ are a lot more real than simply over-active children’s machinations.
The tension in Dark Skies is nicely worked, with a dense, tense, atmospheric tone established early on. Given the film’s modest $3,500,000 budget, it takes the sensible route of playing to its strengths. You won’t see any garish, in-yer-face action here, as Stewart chooses to focus on the slow-burning chills, creepy background flickers and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them shadowy goings-on to make his film effective. That’s not to say there aren’t one or two shock-scares thrown in for good measure, though.
Drawing comparisons to Insidious, Sinister and the Paranormal Activity series, the film has enough character and heart to stand up as its own entity. The director maximises good direction, clever camera movements and solid acting to get his story across, and, on the most part, it works. Of particular note is young Kadan Rockett’s turn as Sam. All of the cast members do a solid job, but Rockett’s performance is a particular highlight of Stewart’s film. J.K. Simmons also deserves special mention for his brief appearance as an extra-terrestrial expert.
Whilst nice, solid and minimalistic, there also isn’t anything massively groundbreaking about Dark Skies. Yes, it is effective and eerie in what it does, but it also finds itself guilty of a very straightforward, predictable narrative as it builds to its finale. That’s not to say there aren’t some twists and turns in the road, it’s just to say that you generally know where the road is going to end up when you start your journey.
Similarly, the extras on the Blu-ray disc are nothing to write home about either. There’s a relatively interesting commentary with Stewart and his production team, then a few alternative/deleted scenes thrown in for good measure. Like the film, they’re good for what they are, but they won’t leave you shook up and itching for more. Dark Skies is like the classic post-pub Saturday night kebab: at the time it does the job, but ultimately you’re no better for it and the next day you wonder why you really bothered.
Extras: Commentary with Scott Stewart, Jason Blum, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Peter Gvozdas / Alternative and Deleted Scenes