In today’s economy: anything is possible. Yes, even an alien-invasion.
The Barrett family is the stereotypical, 21st Century, suburban-living family that is struggling to make any ends meet. Lacy (Keri Russell) is a Realtor trying to sell a whole slew of houses; Daniel (Josh Hamilton) continues to look for a job as he was laid-off from his old one; Jesse (Dakota Goyo) is a teenager at that awkward age where girls, weed, and porn become front-and-center in the mind; and the youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett), is just a little tike that’s weird, but hey, who isn’t when they are 5? All of the problems that they seem to face with money, keeping the house, and having any type of credibility to their names whatsoever is put on the back-burner, once they realize that they may be under a the storm of an invasion from aliens. No, not the metaphorical aliens, but REAL ALIENS.
Dark Skies was one of those movies that nobody seemed to care about when it originally came out, not even the production company that released it did, because they didn’t even bother screening it for critics. And if they did screen it, they told all critics and publications to hold their reviews until the evening of Friday, once the movie already came out. Strange, right? Yeah, sort of is, but isn’t strange because they probably felt like they had a stinker and wanted people to stay away from talking bad shit on it. However, it seemed like such bad press for a movie that wasn’t all that terrible to begin with. Just shitty-marketing. That’s all.
In ways, I can see why the studio would want to hide this movie away from the mainstream audience, but at the same time; I just can’t because it seems like this movie is a tad bit different from what we are used to seeing with horror movies. Well, recent horror movies that is. Rather than just giving us some plot-lines for these characters, who they are, and what situation they are in, the movie takes a surprising turn and actually focuses more on them, with all of the spooky-shit showing up as the side-dish. Characters and relationships are front-and-center in this movie, and for the most part: it worked for me.
It worked for me because I felt myself rooting this family on, even when it seemed like they had every single odd stacked up against them. Yeah, they may be facing-off against aliens and may have little to no control over what happens to them, but at least they are going to fight their way against them. Watching as this family fell through hard times with their house, their jobs, and their money-saving, as well as the alien shit, was enough to make me care about them and this movie. It’s only until the latter-parts where we start to focus more on the “alien shit” is when things seem to get a tad bit out-of-hand.
Not too much, but a tad bit.
See, where this movie goes wrong is when it decides to focus in on the horror-aspect of the movie, but go a bit over-board as well. I don’t mind a horror movie trying to give me little BOO scares here and there, but this movie seemed to do too many of them, in such a short-span of time, when everything else that was sedated and laid-back seemed to work better. It wasn’t that the movie wasn’t trying to scare us, it just didn’t work because it felt out-of-place with all else that was happening.
Even the aliens themselves are really corny to see. Granted, we don’t get too many glimpses of them, as they are pushed more to the background at times, but when they do show up; they made me laugh a couple of times just by how cheap they looked. I get it, the movie probably didn’t have the craziest budget to make these aliens look like the second-coming of those blue things from Avatar, but at least give me something better that doesn’t look like it was made for one of those programs that you could view on the History or SyFy channel, that talks about UFO sightings and whatnot. Even when the aliens didn’t show up, the movie still made me unintentionally laugh, just because it seems like the movie took melodramatic moments as clues and hints as to why everything’s happening. After about the 4th or 5th strange happening to this family, I just about had it and wish they went on, but nope; they just had to continue to pile on the happenings.
And not that type of happening either. Thank the high heavens for that.
But at the center of the movie, underneath all of the coating of sci-fi, aliens, and scares, the cast is what keeps this movie moving. Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton are good as a sympathetic married-couple, because they actually feel like one. They love, they fight, they argue, they bicker, they sleep together at night, they care for their children, they pay their mortgage (sort of), and they always stick together no matter what. Seeing them together felt realistic and worth watching, whereas most films of the same vein, probably would have made one of them have a huge secret that he/she didn’t decide to tell the other, and just a whole bunch of other spousal-disputes would occur. Thankfully, the movie keeps those aspects of the relationship, just like the characters, grounded to where it isn’t an over-abundance. It’s just right in the middle.
Dakota Goyo is good as the teen of the family that’s going through some problems of his own, the most important one of all: girl problems. Goyo is fine in this role because he feels like the type of awkward kid you’d meet on the street, and tell to just smile and be happy because he’s never going to have it again (ever), but all of his subplots did weigh-down the film. However, that’s just because they had to show him at “that age” where everything’s weird and doesn’t seem to make sense. Whatever. Just shut up and smile, kid.
The main cast is good, but why on Earth did the movie decide to waste the talents of J.K. Simmons. As we all know, the guy is amazing in just about everything that he does, which is why I was pretty damn upset when I saw him get a relatively-crappy role as some conspiracy-nut who shows up, talks to this family, and tells them what we all know. Really, that’s all his character was here for: to tell us that these aliens are bad and are going to do whatever it is that they can to take away one of their family members. That’s it. Nothing special about this role, and one that could have probably been played by you, me, or my dog laying right next to me. What a waste, man. What a waste.
Consensus: It’s the typical haunted-house flick, mixed with some aliens, that features clichés and melodramatic moments that feel as unneeded as a Keri Russell nude scene (but seriously, when the hell are we going to get that?!?!?), but Dark Skies still does well with making us care for it’s core characters, and at least have us waiting for something good to happen. It sort of does, and sort of doesn’t, but at least it’s not a total waste of your time.
5.5 / 10 = Rental!!