Derek Winnert

Dark Skies *** (2013, Keri Russell, Jake Brennan, Josh Hamilton) – Movie Review

dark-skies-new-poster

Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton are Lacy and Daniel Barrett, a pleasant American suburban couple with a pair of well-behaved young sons (Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett).

The movie gets off to a nice quiet, cosy start, but then their peaceful life, previously troubled only with the usual money and employment problems we all share, is shattered when a series of increasingly weird and escalatingly scary events starts happening. More of a psychological thriller than a horror movie, you’re thinking, and so it goes — or at least seems to go.

With plenty of screen time for small-town local flavour, atmosphere and character development, the film lulls you into a false sense of security and swings you onto its side with a bit of charm and likeability. Somehow, with this game plan, you’re thinking Hitchcock. And soon even The Birds is referenced in this carefully crafted, in many ways quite neat and nifty movie from the producer of Paranormal Activity, Sinister and Insidious.

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Fine, everything good. Problem is though, movies need to be fresh, require that new angle and an excitingly different spin. Where is it here? Well, it has one or two decently staged shocks and a couple of little surprises up its sleeve, at least if you don’t read internet plot summaries or examine trailers too carefully.

Even without these internet clues and the Arthur C Clarke quote it begins with (‘Two possibilities exist’…‘both are equally terrifying’), I’m afraid it’s pretty much clear where it’s all headed. So that gives the movie a slightly stale, generic feel. What else could the ‘unimaginably terrifying and deadly force’ be other than the one they go for?

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The actors and writer-director Scott Stewart (Legion) do their damnedest to bail it out, and nearly succeed. I think they could have succeeded. Familiar and routine though it is, all it really needs is a big finish, or actually an entire third act that’s somehow missing, like they’re leaving that part of the story for Dark Skies 2. All that the climax has is the small surprise you’d expect and a little postscript that adds up to the movie fizzling out with the proverbial whimper not the exciting big bang.

That’s a shame, because there’s really a much better film here waiting to break out, and it doesn’t need big-budget special effects to achieve it, just one more script re-write or so.

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If this was a school report, I’d write that Stewart’s work is very sound and conscientious. Seven out of ten, 70 per cent. Russell and Hamilton are first rate as ‘normal’ folks under the pressure of trying to overcome ‘abnormal’ circumstances, both actors surprisingly convincing under tricky circumstances, while the kids are excellent, and J K Simmons in his one scene is the barnstorming show-stopper you’d expect from his actor.

Close to a good movie, close enough to be frustrated by it, close enough to seek out and pay for anyway. Of course I didn’t believe a word of it, but you don’t have to, do you?

© Derek Winnert 2013 Movie Review

Check out more reviews on http://derekwinnert.com/

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