Dark Skies (PG-13)

Suspense/Thriller 97 February 22, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
Neither execrable enough to warrant being so unceremoniously dumped into theaters, nor so thoroughly un-excerable that we should be outraged by its treatment, Scott Stewart's Dark Skies offers passable home-invasion horror of the Close Encounters variety, right down to the screws that loosen themselves, the UFO heat lamps suffusing doorways with light, and the bubbling leftovers dumped from the fridge. Of course, without the distractions of Spielberg's technique and goony optimism, audiences have too much time to wonder why the aliens here bother playing creepy faerie tricks on this suburban family—snatching photos from frames and hours from lives—before moving in for their real goal, a rote child snatching. Stewart has some lofty ambitions, some of which he almost fulfills. There's a couple good scares, including one doozy from The Birds, but also too much breezed-past off-the-rack weirdness, including a series of Paranormal Activity-style temporary possessions that demand the actors must stand there, freeze-tag style, with eyes bugged out and mouths wide open. Keri Russell, as the mother, carves a real performance from a role that mostly demands she wander a dark house in fetching tank tops. Dakota Goyo, as the oldest of the kids, dares to be bluntly uncharismatic in the way of actual 13-year-old boys; he's given an awkward first kiss, a lyrical stoned bike ride, and an arc whose real-life humanity suggests that Stewart aspired to make a movie that might mean something to someone. Too bad that what exists of that movie-- the one exemplified by a smartly disorienting climactic setpiece steeped in the sex fears of pubescence-- is only about half as long as this one.
Scott Charles Stewart Keri Russell, Dakota Goyo, Josh Hamilton, Annie Thurman, Trevor St. John, Michael Patrick McGill, Ariana Guido, Josh Wingate, Marion Kerr, Ron Ostrow Scott Charles Stewart Jason Blum The Weinstein Company

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