Spoiler Warning: Anyone keeping tabs on director Scott Charles Stewart knows that he has problems focusing on a single film. He was incredibly vocal in declaring that both Legion and Priest were set to be the first films in a trilogy. Both “franchises” failed. It appears that he’s learned nothing from his past failures as Dark Skies, his alien horror flick produced by Blumhouse, makes the exact same mistakes. Once again, it looks as if Stewart is too focused on a sequel, instead of nurturing his first baby that needs love and attention.
Dark Skies follows a suburban family that, after a few welcome nods to Poltergeist, has an increasingly difficult time grappling with the reality that their incredibly severe problems stem from something supernatural. Lacy (Keri Russell) and Daniel (Josh Hamilton) have two sons, the teenage Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and the younger Sam (Kadan Rockett). They’ve also got big time money problems and an inability to accept the obvious.
The biggest issue with Dark Skies is its screenplay, written by Stewart himself. The film is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most boring features I’ve seen in years. Taking slow burn to an entirely new level, it traffics in some of the most cliche alien motifs out there, but also feels the need to eventually over-explain everything in one purging moment. After over an hour of obvious hints and weird occurrences (such as the birds scene from the trailer – as well as missing time, rashes behind ears, and unwatchable camera footage), the filmmakers decide to assault the viewer with an overly long explanation of occurrences that they’ve likely already figured out for themselves (God forbid any filmmaker would want to leave an air of mystery around their project). The scene featuring JK Simmons, much like Sinister‘s moment with Vincent D’Onofrio, is fast becoming a Blumhouse staple. In it, Simmons explains EVERYTHING to Russell and Hamilton, from who the aliens are to what they want and why the family has chips behind their ears. In fact, the explanation is so in-depth and pointless that it actually contradicts everything the aliens are doing. It’s such a bizarre and oddly placed scene that not only does it bring the shred of tension to a halt, but it causes the viewer to mentally exit the film in order to try to piece all of the nonsense together. The last thing a filmmaker wants is to lose their audience, but this is the moment where it all collapses.
Stewart attempts to regain footing by dropping the viewers immediately into a “must survive” situation because, apparently, THAT NIGHT was the exact night the aliens decided to unveil their mysterious plan. The logic gaps are so overwhelming that it’s impossible for the viewer to get their minds back in the game. The final 15 minutes are rushed, incoherent, and even worse, not scary – which is odd considering they completely ripped off James Wan’s Insidious for its story structure.
Even more damning is the film’s unsatisfying conclusion, where Stewart blatantly sets up his sequel that he’s been secretly thinking about all along. In referencing Insidious, Dark Skies‘ finale should have been the end of its second act, which is why the bloat of the film feels drawn out and boring.
Even if Dark Skies had been scary, it would be impossible to rewatch without fast forwarding. It’s shocking to me that a single frame at a birthday party in Signs is scarier than the entirety of this film. Maybe it’s because the aliens’ motives don’t feel real, or maybe it’s the way the film was shot, but at the end of the day you may as well go watch Fire In The Sky on Netflix and see what a real scary alien movie is all about.