“Dark Skies” tells the tale of a family beset with a string of escalating alien visitations. Helpless and frightened, their lives slowly unravel under the strain of the events as the extraterrestrials get bolder and bolder in their incursions.
As frightening as that concept is, the film loses its entire cache of good will with its bold, but regrettable choice of endings. When it’s finished, people will be left thinking about the film that could have been.
Lacy (Keri Russell) and Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) are your typical American suburban husband and wife, raising two boys and struggling to make ends meet after the recession costs Daniel his job. One day, however, they begin to experience what initially appears to be a string of home invasions; their burglar alarm keeps going off, the food from their refrigerator is strewn around their kitchen, and household items are stacked in odd ways.
Initially, of course, the family denies anything otherworldly is going on. Intruders are suspected, and police are called. When no signs of forced entry is discovered, suspicion falls to the children. Things begin to get even stranger, however… confounding authorities and leaving the family at wits’ end. Hundreds of birds simultaneously crash into their home, their youngest child begins having visitation nightmares, and worst of all, they all begin to experience trance-like states where they temporarily lose control of their bodies and have no recollection of what they did.
Eventually they’re forced to believe the impossible, and they seek out the help of an expert on alien visitations (J.K. Simmons). Unfortunately, the news they get isn’t what they want to hear.
For much of its runtime, I was impressed with “Dark Skies”. Though not all of the events that they experience were completely original feeling, they certainly were creepy and intriguing. The film escalates events slowly, beginning with the nightly break ins and leading towards a full-out alien home invasion scenario. The family’s powerlessness in the situation is frightening. There’s no where they can turn for help, no one else believes them, and they can’t even fully count on being in control of their own bodies when they need to be. The cast does a fine job portraying this, especially Simmons, I thought his cameo here was superb.
The conclusion of the film, however, is guaranteed to infuriate people. I didn’t even attend a crowded showing and I heard moans and groans of discontent. Personally, I was… ok with it, but I recognized immediately that most viewers would wholeheartedly reject it. The ending of a movie is so critical to the final assessment… I don’t think it’s possible for a good film to have this kind of a disappointing ending and have people leave thinking it was good overall. The last impression will be the overriding one. So even though I thought it was a daring card to play, and had a certain degree of respect for how they concluded things, I have to objectively put up the warning sign for the purposes of this review.
All told, “Dark Skies” winds up being a middling alien harassment movie which might have earned a higher grade, but one that’s saddled with an ending that makes it a difficult movie to recommend.