Cast/Crew: Father Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton – Robert Irwin in J. Edgar), wife Lacy (Keri Russell from The Americans), older son Jesse (Dakota Goyo, Max from Real Steel) and younger son Sam (Kadan Rockett).
Plot: Daniel Barrett has a typical American family, but bad news, money problems are putting a strain on everyone. A series of odd occurrences happen around the house & (initially) their youngest child. These increase in severity and lead them to believe something malevolent is targeting them.
• Very quickly you can tell this flim has ties to Insidious and Sinister (same producer), since this film combines the two and adds aliens (called “The Greys”). From the way the characters learn more about what is causing these disturbances, to setting up many cameras around the house and reviewing it the next day, it might feel like you’ve already watched this film. Thankfully it’s shot traditionally and NOT found footage!
• Dark Skies does a good job at building tension. The first visible sighting of The Greys in the film is a great shock. The dialogue stops when it needs to.
• Shock-horror? Yes, there’s use (but not abuse) of the ‘startling’ loud bang moments.
• There’s some cringe-worthy coming-of-age dialogue with elder son Jesse but it’s not much of the film.
• I enjoyed the ominous signs & ‘things that can’t be naturally explained’ such as birds converging on a particular house.
• As with these ‘haunted house’ films, it seems incredulous that the family would not move when such obvious bad things are happening in their home – I appreciate the film quickly mentioning that moving house would not solve the problem.
• There’s somewhat heavy-handed commentary on family: Financial woes are causing strife between the parents, the husband wants to internalize his worries and denies problems, dismissing the child’s explanations, and parents failing to communicate with their children. This is mirrored with the unsettling events in the house causing upset & denial, and when temporarily possessed, the family members literally can’t talk (to each other). The Greys want to tear the family apart, much like their own problems. The film comes right out and preaches to the audience when the parents are told that a strong family unit will save them from The Greys. Hilarious jump-cut to the father disregarding that and buying guns and has no idea where his kids are. Hilariously shoe-horned that the final act takes place on July 4th with Stars & Stripes/fireworks playing.
• There’s an unnecessary somewhat SAW-like ‘revelation/explanation’ at the end that the audience would’ve figured out by then. But hey -best be sure everyone in the audience understands why.
Overall: The build and tension increases throughout the film, and it’s well done, but it’s a rather short pay-off and the film as a whole isn’t particularly scary (like most horror films). The protagonist father isn’t that amiable either. This was a better than average sci-fi/horror film but it’s main problem is that it really does feel unoriginal. A mix of previously-worn ideas with a fresher idea on top. But it is a decent watch…You won’t be enriched by it, but it’ll easily hold your attention.