“Dark Skies”

Susan Granger’s review of “Dark Skies” (Dimension Films)


Opening with a revelatory quotation from Arthur C. Clarke, this predictably paranoid alien abduction thriller never delivers. The average, middle-class Barretts have moved to serene suburbia.  But Daniel (Josh Hamilton) has
been laid off from his job as an architect, so Lacy (Kari Russell) is struggling to pay the mortgage and support the family as a real estate agent. But the threat of foreclosure looms, and there are those mysterious occurrences – like family photographs disappearing from their frames, false alarms triggering the security system, suicidal birds diving into the exterior walls, and the entire contents of their kitchen cupboards and refrigerator being precariously stacked up at night, reaching all the way to the ceiling. In addition, they experience inexplicable nose bleeds, strange rashes, blackouts and mysterious marks appearing on their bodies.

The stressed-out Barretts have two confused sons: 13 year-old Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and six year-old Sam (Kadan Rockett). Little Sam has been having nightmares and refers to a mysterious “sandman” apparition appearing by his bedside at night. Eventually, paranormal ‘expert’ Edwin Pollard (J. K. Simmons) arrives to explain the bizarre occurrences as visitations: “The invasion already happened. They’re here.”

Visual effects veteran Scott Stewart (“Legion,” “Priest”) is writer/director, spinning the same kind of conventional supernatural stuff that intrigued Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) in TV’s venerable “X-Files” with sci-fi suspense and shocks, punctuated by Joseph Bishara’s portentous score. The all-too-familiar cinematic influence of “Paranormal Activity,” “Poltergeist” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is palpable, undoubtedly because producer Jason Blum is not only a “Paranormal Activity” trouper but is also credited with “Insidious” and its upcoming sequel.

Problem is: there is no revelatory Fourth of July payoff, just a setup for a sequel.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to catch up with now-thirtysomething Keri Russell, best known as TV’s “Felicity.” She’s not only playing a mom here but also in the new TV series, “The Americans,” in which she doubles as a KGB spy.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dark Skies” is a dire, unsettling 4, ominous but ultimately disappointing.