‘Dark Skies’ falls short using same horror film formula

Cristina Lule

“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

“Dark Skies” opens with this quote from Arthur C. Clarke, who’s best known for writing “2001: A Space Odyssey,” perhaps the greatest science fiction film ever made. So right away, our expectations are set high.

Unfortunately, the film never establishes itself as a distinct science fiction or horror film, often borrowing from other films of these genres and taking itself far too seriously – resulting in unexpected humor.

The Barretts seem like a typical American family living in a quaint middle-class community. But behind their white picket fence, things aren’t so ideal. Lacy (Keri Russell) is a real-estate agent, struggling to pay the mortgage while husband Daniel (Josh Hamilton) is out of work. The Barretts’ problems feel familiar – or at least universal – until their home continues to be broken into at night and unexplained phenomena begin to plague their lives.

The first 20 minutes of “Dark Skies” is engaging and almost has us convinced we’re about to watch something surprisingly inventive, but the film quickly tears down its fence and behind an alluring façade shows us it’s nothing more than a rehash of horror and science fiction film clichés.

The film borrows material from so many other horror films it turns into an egg hunt of “guess which film that scene was ripped from?” But these eggs aren’t fresh; they’re spoiled to the point they reek of unoriginality.

The family borders up their house like in “Signs,” set up a surveillance system like in “Paranormal Activity (insert number here)” and have an avian invasion comparable to suspense master Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Similar to the Paranormal Activity films, “Dark Skies” relies on our understanding of these conventions for people who already know what’s coming and want to be scared. The film offers a few jumps, but it takes itself so seriously the characters’ possessed behaviors often turn into charades, and the paranormal phenomena doesn’t spook us as much as it has us marvel at strategic canned food stacking.

The film leads up to a climactic moment on July 4 and ironically it never declares itself independent of the other films it stole from that let it build up to that point. The film isn’t necessarily predictable, it does attempt to play with our expectations toward the end, but by that point, we’re already exhausted giving this film the benefit of the doubt.

“Dark Skies” offers no creative take on the horror or science fiction films its story steals from. It’s too serious in its approach to be scary or even slightly creepy that you’re laughing more often than leaping off your seat.

As far as living up to classics, I can’t put it in the same league as “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

I’m sorry, “Dark Skies.” I’m afraid I can’t do that.


Cristina Lule can be reached at: [email protected]