“Dark Skies,” written and directed by Scott Stewart, 97 minutes, rated PG-13.
Writer-director Scott Stewart (“Legion,” “Priest”), who is known more for his work in visual effects than directing, doesn’t understand how to make a good horror movie. His latest film, “Dark Skies,” goes through all the horror movie motions, but pays no attention to the details.
The family in jeopardy here are the Barretts, a dysfunctional family full of lifeless clichés. You have the jobless father, Daniel, (Josh Hamilton); the overstressed mother, Lacy (Keri Russell); a rebellious son in his early teens, Jesse (Dakota Goyo); and Sam, the youngest son who has nightmares and needs therapy (Kadan Rockett). Of course, Sam’s nightmares of tall, lanky figures visiting him at night aren’t nightmares at all, they’re real. Now, let the inexplicable events commence.
It starts with an unknown creature rummaging through the family’s refrigerator when the backdoor was left open. Probably just an animal, right? The antics escalate, however, to setting off the security system, having hundreds of birds fly right into all sides of their house, and eventually, possession of each family member’s body.
When mother Lacy has had enough, she does some research on a Google knock-off site to find that her family is in fact being visited by aliens. Despite already suffering from time loss and a bloody nose that projectiles all over his shirt, it takes a couple of arguments for Daniel to finally get on board with this theory.
Eventually, the two agree to get some advice from a conspiracy theorist and alien expert in the city, played by J.K. Simmons, who likely took all of two or three days to film this. Bad news: The Barretts are being visited by aliens known as “the Grays,” who toy with their victims before abducting one family member. But, the Grays can be fought off if the family can come together and defend themselves.
Closely following the “Insidious” formula, which wasn’t at all original itself, “Dark Skies” understands the concept of delivering jumps, but never leaves a lasting scare. Although it develops a somewhat eerie atmosphere, the film fails miserably in trying to unsettle its audience.
The Grays, themselves, aren’t the least bit scary. They’re just shadowy, nondescript figures shaped kind of like former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo. Where more effective horror movies are full of imagery that is unshakeable, “Dark Skies” is just boring and uninspired.
Ultimately, “Dark Skies” is just another forgettable formulaic horror movie, with a hint of science fiction.