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Dark Skies


Stars: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, J.K. Simmons, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, Josh Stamberg, L.J. Benet, Rich Hutchman, Myndy Crist, Annie Thurman, Jake Washburn, Ron Ostrow

Director: Scott Stewart

The heart sinks.

Yet another “things that go bump in the night” chiller is offered up for our delectation and delight. But, while making no claims that Dark Skies is a unique, trailblazing genre picture, I thought writer-director Scott Stewart’s assured take on seen-it-all-before themes delivered more than enough shocks, chills and suspense to satisfy shockfilm addicts while neatly blending the supernatural with science fiction.

In the days of second features, it might well have become a minor cult movie.

The setting, an all-American white picket fence, barbecues-in-the-backyard suburb is well realised, with Stewart making good use of David Boyd’s initially bright wide screen cinematography to establish his key characters – husband and wife Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell and their sons Dakota Goyo and his younger brother Kadan Rockett.

It’s soon clear that the family is under stress. Hamilton is out of work and looking for a new job, they are behind with their mortgage and (unbeknown to his parents) Goyo is smoking pot and watching (sanitised here for your viewing) porn while Rockett has conversations with an unseen ‘Sandman’. Stress mounts inexorably (as does a well contrived mounting sense of unease) as the family is subjected to a series of strange supernatural events that fail to set off the house alarm. When Hamilton sets up 24/7 television surveillance, nothing shows up and the family starts falling apart. And, most disturbingly, a deluge of dead birds falls from the skies onto the house (even more disturbing than Hitchcock’s avian attacks in The Birds) - and the family freaks out further as they lose time and any memories of the missing periods.

But then a visit to a seriously weird and downbeat alien invasion expert (a splendid cameo by J K Simmons, sporting an Indiana Jones hat) who tells them “I don’t fight any more” neatly switches themes from ghosts to sinister alien creatures.

It’s no genre masterpiece, of course. But the key performances are excellent for the material and shockfilm fans in particular should get their money’s worth from a slick, professional piece that has no pretentions other than to make you uneasy and keep you feeling that way as suspense is skillfully racked up within the boundaries of the genre.

And one thing really fascinated me. Until Hamilton heads for the weapons store – well into the film – he appears to be one of the very, very few Americans on film (or in real life either, I imagine) who doesn’t possess a gun.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment One/Momentum. Colour.
97 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 04 Apr 2013