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  Dark Skies They're Coming To Take You Away
Year: 2013
Director: Scott Stewart
Stars: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons, L.J. Benet, Rich Hutchman, Myndy Crist, Annie Thurman, Jake Brennan, Ron Ostrow, Tom Costello, Marion Kerr, Josh Stamberg, Tiffany Jeneen, Brian Stepanek, Judith Moreland
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Barrett family live in a quiet suburban street where nothing much ever happens, but things could be better for them financially, with a mortgage payment due and father Daniel (Josh Hamilton) needing a better paid job. Mother Lacy (Keri Russell) is an estate agent with middling success and may be the breadwinner if their fortunes don't change, while their two sons - Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and the younger Sam (Kadan Rockett) are two normal boys though Lacy is worried about the company the former is keeping and the apparent night terrors the latter suffers. Though there is more to that than meets the eye...

Possibly the key phrase of critical thought for movies such as Dark Skies and all those films where the nuclear family was placed under threat was in Stephen King's genre overview Danse Macabre where he reported one moviegoer's response to The Amityville Horror (original) as "Think of the bills!" That worry all the stability in your home life you have worked towards will fall away under the wrong circumstances very much informed any thriller or horror where family matters were the most important thing to preserve, and whether that was illustrated by a killer nanny, an ill-advised affair or ghostly possession, losing face was at the heart of the scares.

So really Dark Skies and its ilk dealt in the terror of public embarrassment, of being ashamed in the community where everyone else seems to be getting along just fine, except such unease leant heavily on the idea that this was the problems of your own household magnified to extreme proportions. Thus a running motif here was one Barrett being humiliated in front of friends, strangers or authority figures, say Jesse witnessing his father brawling with his best pal's dad, which naturally would be mortifying to any child, or Lacy and Daniel told their youngest has some inexplicable bruises on his torso, so do they have any idea where they came from?

So a sense of degradation for the whole family then, whoever was watching it, which would have been all very well if Dark Skies didn't come across as not so much familiar, as more a collection of scenes from other movies intercut with the results of skimming a few pages of conspiracy UFO websites. Not only were we in Amityville territory, but Poltergeist territory too, a far better film which writer and director Scott Stewart was evidently trying to emulate in its mixture of technology and good old, bad old supernatural fears - there was even a spooky television set in there. From a more recent vintage, Daniel has also seen Paranormal Activity because he sets up cameras in every room.

All the better to catch a fleeting phantom, though you do wonder if he's struggling for income where he got the cash to splash on all that hardware? Throw in, for example, an attack of nature from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds here, the alien abduction from Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind there, and you had yet another horror flick from the twenty-first century which practically demanded you play "spot the reference" with it. Of course, you can wear your influences on your sleeve and still manage to do something interesting with your material - J.J. Abrams' Super 8 was a neat encapsulation of the Spielberg productions of the eighties from around this time - but in this case there was no understanding of what made those memorable scenes so indelible in the minds of millions. Nope, it was just scare sequence after scare sequence strung together with the minimum of interest, falling back on the hollow assumption that it worked before, so why mess with the formula now? Music by Joseph Bishara.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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