Fellow Horror fans, my apologies for not posting something sooner. I suffered a lack of inspiration and couldn’t find my kitsch appreciation groove. It was a flat-line for a while, and I looked for days for something to watch; sometimes stopping midway during a film that I couldn’t bear to finish, which is rare since I’ll watch anything! Never fear though, as I have a renewed interest and there seems to be some great films out there, so this pixie is happy again!
One film I was interested in was Dark Skies. I saw this come out a few months ago, and missed it in the theatres, so I was anxiously awaiting the dvd release. I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this moody, alien abduction story.
Lacy and Daniel Barrett (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) seem to lead an idyllic, boring suburban life. Two sons, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett), a nice house and barbeques on the weekends. It’s great, except for the fact that Daniel, who was laid off, can’t find a job and Lacy, a real estate agent, can’t sell any houses. They are also plagued by bizarre, nightly happenings. Each night, the events get stranger, and every day, the family becomes more stressed. Food scattered and half eaten on the kitchen floor, various household items impossibly stacked to the ceiling and a disturbing bird incident seem like mild annoyances after weird seizures start to affect the entire family. When there is evidence of abuse with their sons, Lacy and Daniel are pushed to believe that these events aren’t coming from the boys, a prankster, stress or even this planet. Enlisting the help of Edwin Pollard (J. K. Simmons), an abduction and alien expert, Lacy and Daniel prepare to accept the unbelievable, and hopefully get their life back.
I liked the mundane, suburban backdrop for this alien abduction story. The American dream of raising a family and having a ‘normal’ life becomes a nightmare. The aliens and the disruptions they create are a great metaphor for the lack of control over our lives in general. I think this film got panned generally because some reviewers thought it was either too clichéd or was a thinly veiled dissertation on right-wing fears of being invaded by foreigners. I see it as a tad tongue in cheek. Most plod along only hoping for the house, the car, the job and 2.5 kids. When things don’t happen as we expect, who you gonna blame, “India and China”? That’s who Daniel’s ‘everyman’ neighbour blames. But no, it’s not “them” (gasp!). What better explanation for kids acting up, stress on a marriage, and medical oddities than aliens? I am a fan of the show Ancient Aliens (and have a secret crush on Giorgio Tsoukalos-the crazy hair guy) where scholars give compelling evidence of aliens being here all along. Heck, some believe we carry alien DNA. Who am I to argue? Better to blame the aliens than ourselves. I actually like to blame “The Man” myself, who just may have a slightly gray pallor to his skin and lots of probes…but I digress.
Director Scott Stewart (who also directed Priest and Legion), did a decent job with the mood of Dark Skies. Although I though the pacing was a tad slow, you could feel the foreboding tension building as we move through the story, and I loved the simplicity of the film. Special effects were minimal but effective to make this story believable, and I found the stark quality to each scene brought the characters and their emotions to the forefront. And speaking of characters, I though the cast did a good job in portraying the regular suburban family, but the stand out for me was J. K. Simmons. I have been a fan of his since OZ where he played Vern Schillinger, the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood and someone you just loved to hate. Usually he nails various gruff, abrasive roles, but this time around, he is very quiet and subdued. His character Pollard is quite different from the clichéd alien conspiracy theorist. He believes because he knows. He has given in to the reality of aliens among us and also lives with a bunch of cats which is great in my books. Pollard has only a few moments in the film, but he brings in a touch of comedy and is a great transition to the tense finale.
Dark Skies is a great addition to the abduction genre. Stewart creates an interesting film that takes everyday family stresses in the all American clueless home and gives them a more sinister origin. Definitely makes you think about that weird mosquito bite, or why that bird keeps looking at you funny…
Favourite Scene: When Lacy learns that dogs will go berserk when aliens are near, she races to the local pound. Stopping in front of a particularly nutso German Shepherd named Clive who is described as “Aggressive!!!”, she makes a clipped statement rather than a question, “What about this one?…yeah” to son Jesse. Yeah, Clive will do.
Most Memorable Line: When talking to Pollard about why they have been chosen by the aliens, Lacy asks, “What makes us so special?”, to which he flatly replies, “Nothing.” It’s true. The aliens are just messing with us because we are boring lab rats. Not like we’ve solved any problems here on Earth, or stopped any wars for world peace, or treat each other any better. Earth is probably the worst truck stop in the universe…