Dark Skies, a strange movie… to begin with I don’t think I saw any images of dark skies during the whole movie, in fact, I don’t think I even saw a shot of the starry sky. Well then… where are the dark skies? I don’t know, but what I do know is that what starts out as a messy film in the way it builds up tension (especially during the first act) manages after a while to build up an interesting and especially tense tale, even hitting some Kubrickian notes near the end that make it worth giving it a thought. But I have to be honest, I have a personal bias for this movie and for the alien abduction movie genre. I feel it’s the last great myth left in culture, the only place within the collective unconscious from which disturbing stories can be rescued to develop horror narratives. Horror films have always drawn from religious cultural lore (mostly) and with the fall of religious belief, the “death of God” and magical thinking over the last decades, can anyone really say that they have felt fear watching a horror film? Well, I can say that I felt fear watching Dark Skies and that is why we are going to talk about this film.
But it’s true what I said at the beginning, the film starts off in a rather disorganized way and I think this is due to two factors. The first one is an attempt (at least it seems so) to emulate in certain aspects Signs by M. Night. Shyamalan, I’m referring specifically to the plot involving the older brother of the family which only pays off in retrospect (and doesn’t really pay off much) after the final sequence. This plot involves the boy’s passage into adolescence and many of these scenes feel really disconnected from the rest of the story. The other factor that plays into the rocky start of the story is the way the plot moves in the beginning, by which I mean the beginning of the “attack,” the moment when the aliens begin to manifest themselves in the lives of the characters. At least the first two signs of their arrival at the protagonists’ house I feel don’t work at all. At the beginning, the mother finds the food outside the refrigerator (this leads to the hypothesis of an animal attack during the night). Then, certain elements in the kitchen are rearranged in a mathematical way (and we know about this tangentially because the father of the family indicates it and because we know he is an architect). The first time we see an alien is in a drawing that the youngest son makes after commenting that he has been talking to the “Sandman” (an ancient device of Western mythology, you know, of that magical thinking that no longer works), such a drawing reminds us of a lot of old movies that have used the same device ad nauseam.
So far anyone could say that this movie is just another in a long line of horror movies with exactly the same plot. That plot Blake Snider calls “the monster in the house” in his infamous book “Save the Cat”. And a lot of them wouldn’t be wrong, unless… maybe they are wrong, because, admittedly, up to this point the film doesn’t work very well, except perhaps for the element that I feel keeps the film cohesive until the end, the relationship between the parents of the family and the growing tension that forms between them. If the poorly constructed paranormal manifestations haven’t grabbed your attention up to this point, I feel you couldn’t help but be interested in the problems that arise between the two main characters. The problem is that the father has been out of work for some time and the mother has to work for both of them. Also, the father’s relationship with the older son is not the best since the latter has started to become interested in women. What I mean by all this is that, although the film fails at the beginning to present us with the main conflict or does it in an unsatisfactory way, what it does do well is to introduce us to the characters, all of them interesting and well constructed.
But the plot catches up with us after what I feel is the first really disturbing event (and consistent with the alien abduction lore, for those who know it) in the story, occurs when the young son has a catatonic episode playing with other children in the neighborhood square. Up to this point we know that the father is suffering because he hasn’t gotten a job and we’ve seen family arguments culminating in this scene, where the father is completely overcome by his son’s reaction and doesn’t know how to help him. From here on, the story takes on a different tone, one of a constant sense of stalking and growing paranoia, especially in the mother, who is the first to “see” one of the aliens inside the house. The situation escalates rapidly as the characters begin to lose control of their own lives and worse, their bodies, some of them coming to move unknowingly during the night and having seizures consistent with the emotional expression of traumatic events they cannot remember. All this until the moment when the mother decides to start researching about these events and ends up arriving at an internet page that explains everything that is happening to them via “extraterrestrial abductions”. But the father is not willing to believe in this explanation, especially after finally finding a job. However, things get worse to the point where he himself manages to see the strange beings that visit his family during the night.
After this, the parents decide to visit an abduction expert, who tells them the truth about the matter, there is nothing they can do to stop what is happening to them, moreover, he warns them that, when aliens show themselves to people, it is because they are going to take a family member with them. I’m not going to tell specific things about the ending so as not to spoil it for anyone, I’ll just repeat that this is where the plot about the oldest son pays off and it really doesn’t work much. What does work is the way the final confrontation is designed, it makes you wish the whole movie had been this way. Anyway, the truth is that Dark Skies is a film that starts off badly but has a very good second act and a satisfying third act. Besides that, it is a film that dares to explore the extraterrestrial phenomenon under the logic of horror movies, something I don’t understand why it is not done more. Considering that the material at hand is actually terrifying, at least more so than demonic attacks or the fiftieth coming of the antichrist.
- The presentation of the emotional traumas that are a product of the abductions.
- The acting of Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton.
- The cinematography of the final battle.
- The beginning of the film is uninteresting.