Genre: Sci-Fi, horror
Director: Scott Stewart
Stars: Keri Russell, Jake Brennan, Josh Hamilton
As the Barret family’s peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them.
The other night I dozed off while watching Netflix on my phone. The following morning I awoke laying on my phone and somehow during the night recommended the movie Dark Skies to just about everyone on my friends list on facebook. For the sake of ethics I suppose I should watch the movie and see if it was worth the fanatic recommendation I apparently gave it.
What is Dark Skies?
I do have to clarify since “Dark Skies” is a rather vague title that’s been slapped on so much media before. This Dark Skies is a sci-fi horror film that hit theaters during the post-holiday doldrums of February 2013, got mixed revies, earned a few bucks for the Weinsteins and then faded away – not really becoming a part of pop culture. I recall seeing a trailer for the film and saying “meh.” The marketing made the whole thing look like a lazy version of Insidious with aliens. The mixed reviews essentially confirmed my suspicion of the film’s quality and that was that. However, I was assuming things about the movie and you know that trite phrase about what happens when you assume.
Dark Skies is not a lazy version of Insidious with aliens. It is a horror film following all the common tropes a film like Insidious does and Dark Skies focuses its drama on having a potential child victim as so many supernatural horror films do – only Dark Skies uses aliens instead of ghosts. But there’s nothing really lazy about it. In fact, applying all these standard horror cliches to a story with science fiction elements gives Dark Skies its own kind of unique charm.
Aliens as Horror
Dark Skies is certainly not the fist horror movie with aliens as antagonists. There was Ridley Scott’s film Alien, which is one of the finest horror films around. A lot of sci-fi horror uses either monstrous aliens (Alien, the video game ‘Dead Space’), or simply uses common horror scenarios played out in space (Event Horizon, Jason X). When a science-ficion film chooses to tell a story about The Grays and alien abductions the focus is most often on the mystery of abduction and the mythos behind these aliens (Communion, Fire in the Sky). Movies about The Grays posit ideas about what these aliens might want from us.
The opening of Dark Skies is an onscreen quote from science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke: “Two possibilities exist. Either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying,” with an emphasis on the last sentence. An alien abduction is indeed a terrifying matter and Dark Skies focuses on that terror. Whatever the aliens want is of no concern; whatever they do with their abductees is irrelevant because the horror of the experience is key. While Dark Skies does use very standard and oft-utilized horror tropes for its tale I do greatly appreciate that it remains consistently focused on being a horror film.