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DARK SKIES (15)
Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller. Josh Hamilton, Keri Russell, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, LJ Benet, JK Simmons, Annie Thurman, Rich Hutchman, Myndy Crist. Director: Scott Stewart.
Every year, thousands of people claim to have been abducted by aliens.
Elongated figures commonly known as Greys often appear in victims’ testimonies, performing strange medical procedures on abductees, perhaps to make sense of our self-destructive species.
Conspiracy theorists blame these otherworldly visitations for the disappearance of children from their homes.
As one character in Scott Stewart’s sci-fi horror asserts: “The invasion already happened.”
Dark Skies chronicles the days leading up to a supposed alien abduction through the eyes of a fractured suburban family, trapped in a familiar mire of unpaid bills, work pressures and teenage angst.
The ordinariness of the protagonists, who lie about a disastrous job interview or stare longingly at the girl next door, contrasts sharply with the disturbing events that threaten to rob them of their sanity.
If only Mulder and Scully hadn’t closed The X Files more than a decade ago. They’d have the mystery unravelled in no time at all.
Stewart’s film opens with snapshots of life in the suburbs, where Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) and his wife Lacy (Keri Russell) live with their two boys, Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sammy (Kadan Rockett).
Daniel is an unemployed architect, while Lacy is an estate agent who sometimes allows her conscience to stop her closing a deal on a second-rate property.
The wife is woken in the middle of the night and discovers the contents of the fridge strewn across the floor and the back door open.
She surmises that an animal must have gained entry but can’t fathom why the meat in the fridge was untouched.
“It was a very large rabbit, with opposable thumbs,” jokes Daniel.
The Barretts witness more strange occurrences and as these bizarre events increase in frequency and ferocity, including the mass suicide of flocks of birds, Daniel and Lacy struggle to protect their children from harm.
Lacy opens her mind to the possibility that her family is being targeted by a force from another planet.
“Aliens? You know that’s insane!” scoffs Daniel.
He eventually changes his tune and the Barretts enlist the help of an alien specialist, Edwin Pollard (JK Simmons), who knows exactly what the family is going through.
Dark Skies sustains tension by grounding most of the family’s torment in reality.
Digital effects take a tighter hold of the narrative in the closing minutes when the mystery about the aliens is resolved with a flourish.
The familiarity of the set-up and its execution are the biggest disappointment, including a brief foray into Paranormal Activity-style video surveillance.
However, the cast members are solid, notably youngsters Goyo and Rocketts, who deliver compelling, natural performance as innocents who turn to their parents for protection and discover they are terrifyingly alone.