The Barrett family appears to be your average, ordinary family of four. The father, Dan, is an unemployed architect who’s trying to find work. The mother, Lacy, is earning a supplemental income in real estate sales. the oldest son, Jesse, is just discovering girls and getting into trouble with his best friend, Kevin. the youngest son, Sam, is an average kid playing with his friends and listening to scary stories told to him by his brother. Everything appears normal for this family until a series of disturbing events start to happen to them and then they learn that something is very much out to get them.
That’s the basic premise for the generically titled Dark Skies, a movie about an extraterrestrial encounter (that’s no real spoiler, it’s pretty much told in the trailers for the film) for an ordinary family. It’s the latest movie from writer/director Scott Stewart who’s previously directed the movies Legion (which I wasn’t that thrilled with) and Priest (which I actually liked quite a bit). Dark Skies doesn’t really do anything new with the genre, but for the most part, it’s pretty well executed and has a pretty effective ending.
As the events start to unfold, it all pretty much happens by rote- strange events happen, family gets worried, authorities are called in and are pretty dismissive of what happens, wanting to chalk it up to something happening internally in the family. This all happens at a pretty slow-burn pace, but starts to pick up some steam in it’s back third when Daniel and Lacy seek out the advice of an expert, Edwin Pollard, who warns them of what to expect next.
The movie has an overall good look to it, and in some places, it looks to me like Scott Stewart’s been studying some of what Stanley Kubrick has done with his storytelling approach, which I certainly think adds to the atmosphere. One of the nice things that I think Stewart gets across quite well is just the sheer isolation that the Barretts experience while this is happening to them. You’d like to think that if this sort of weirdness was starting to happen to you that you’d expect some sort of support through your friends and neighbors. The only support that the Barretts receive comes from Pollard and even then, it’s not so much support as it is expecting the inevitability of their situation.
Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell play Daniel and Lacy, and they’re both very good at projecting the everyman quality that this family should have (and I just want to shout out Keri Russell a little further here for the fine work that she’s currently doing in the new FX series, The Americans) Dakota Goyo and Kadan Rockett play their sons, Jesse and Sam respectively, and they’re certainly quite believable. The great J.K. Simmons plays Edwin Pollard, and it’s a pretty different performance for Simmons in that he’s a pretty beaten character who’s now totally resigned to the fact that he can’t do anything about any of the situations that he’s encountered.
While I enjoyed Dark Skies, it’s not exactly the sort of movie that I’m going to tell you to run right out and see in a theatre. For the most part, this seems like pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, but it does get saved by a pretty effective back third. The work here by both Stewart and the cast is certainly solid, but it’s pace is maybe a little too relaxed up front. It’s certainly worth seeing, but I think most will find it more entertaining as home video viewing than making the effort to go to a theatre to see it.