Dark Skies (2013)
Consider the Bourbon biscuit. It comprises of two dark chocolate biscuits sandwiching a chocolate fondant. It is a straight forward recipe made from standard elements. Yet multiple companies manufacture the Bourbon biscuit and they're all slightly different in texture and taste due to minor variations in the base ingredients. You can make the same point about baked beans. Dark Skies is the cinematic equivalent of these products. It is competently made, offers what you know and expect in a slightly different fashion. That doesn't sound such a bad thing, does it? Well let me put it another way. It's generic and predictable.
Please ignore the movie poster. Dark Skies is certainly not a new horror phenomenon. It simply dovetails a home-invasion plot-line into a wider alien menace story and punctuates the proceedings with some neat but rather obviously telegraphed jolts. Furthermore, a lot of the best scenes are very derivative of existing genre classics. I suspect that once again it will come down to the viewers age or genre familiarity as to whether they spot them. The "vegetable" incident in the kitchen for example is not a million miles away from the fridge scene in Close Encounters and the geometric crockery stacking, is very reminiscent of the chairs in Poltergeist. Need I go on? Okay I will. They did the thing with the birds flying into the windows in Red Lights.
There are flashes of inspiration from Director Scott Stewart. The central family within the plot seem to be a microcosm of American Middle-Class angst, particularly in the current economic climate. Josh Hamilton’s performance as the marginalised head of the household is very plausible. Keri Russell has a more conventional role as his estate agent wife and traditional protective mother figure. But as always with such movies these days, the production seems to be far more concerned about making clever set pieces and smart twists, which despite the effort are not entirely successful. It beggars belief that when dealing with the subject of aliens and the infinite possibilities that such a theme offers, Hollywood is still locked in this arbitrary depiction of all extraterrestrial life as "greys".
So, we return to the Bourbon biscuit analogy once again. Despite their inherent culinary shortcomings, they do serve a purpose and are adequate in default of anything else. That pretty much sums up Dark Skies. If you watch this movie at home, when you are in an undemanding mood, accompanied by a cup of [insert beverage of choice here] then it may satisfy. However, the more familiar you become with a specific genre and with all its associated tropes and memes, the more it becomes apparent that Dark Skies is distinctly average and no more.