Dark Skies (2013)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Dark Skies</strong> (2013)

(On Cable TV, January 2014) Astute commentators have already pointed out that stories about alien abductions now have more to do with horror than science-fiction, and Dark Skies does little more than demonstrate this with a perfect straight-faced lack of self-awareness. The story of how a typical suburban family is terrorized by alien invaders coming to abduct one of their own, Dark Skies ends up running through the motions of a formula-driven horror film with little more than competency. As the strange events pile up, coherency becomes less important than a steady drip of chills, and if writer/director Scott Stewart wisely avoids the cheapest shock tactics, what ends up on the screen is more eerie than straight-up scary. The assaulting aliens have near-omnipotent powers, making the idea of resistance a farce. Still, there’s a bit to like in the surrounding material: The portrait of a family being threatened is realistic enough in its domesticity, Keri Russell gets a good role as the mother under duress and JK Simmons makes the most out of a thankless exposition-heavy role. While the material is generally handled with a fair bit of skill, Dark Skies remains uninspired and uninspiring throughout: There’s little zest to the movie, and the results just pale in comparison with some of the better horror movies of the past few years. (For a much, much better recent family-in-peril horror thriller, see Sinister.) For genre commentators, there’s something depressing in the way SF stock elements such as abducting aliens are used as serviceable props in a mediocre horror film: but so things go when mythologies get absorbed by the mainstream.

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