Movie Review: Dark Skies

By Micah Lundstrom, Managing Editor

Hollywood struggles for original ideas these days. Every now and then we receive a film with such an original concept that it becomes an instant classic, and that is what classics are; original films. When anyone hears about any concept of “something within itself,” such as a “dream within a dream” many will instantly think of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. If a film does not have an original concept, it must have an original storyline. E.T. was an alien film, one of the first of its kind, making it strongly original. Today there are numerous alien films, we cannot even count them off, but E.T. still holds such unique scenes that it will always be remembered. Today, Amblan entertainment, the production company owned by Steven Spielberg (director of E.T.) holds a logo of the moon, with a bicycle in front of it from E.T. Everyone will forever know this symbol from that very individual film.

Today, filmmakers experiment with overly repeated concepts, trying to put their own stylistic twist on it. Oren Peli (producer and director of the Paranormal Activity series) has been very successful with originality in horror. He created Paranormal Activity, which so many films have now tried to replicate due to its simplicity in production. Peli also created the hit film Insidious, and last year’s Sinister. All films, with the exception of the Paranormal sequels, have been widely original. Now, however, Peli takes on something new for himself; alien films. Dark Skies was released mid-February of this year. The film features an average suburban family (been there, done that) with a nightmare stricken child (never seen that before) and then weird things start happening around the house (wow, you don’t say?) The storyline concept is obviously very unoriginal, but what keeps the audience captivated is, not the fact that we know there will be strange events occurring, but the events themselves. The camera follows the mother from behind, which was a strange choice by the cinematographer considering she takes up a majority of the scene, but it is a new type of point of view that simple camera from eye level does not. We did get the feeling that it was literally us walking through those dark halls, but now that it shows the walker herself, we can better put ourselves in that situation, getting a more vivid idea of how we would react. When the mother turns a corner, we first get her startled reaction before the camera fully makes its peak around the corner, revealing the cause of the mother’s scare. The things she witnesses and sees are widely original as well.

Another aspect that makes Dark Skies a good film, is that we know aliens are encountering the family, but we do not know who they will abduct. The filmmakers keep us in wonder by following each family member an equal amount of time. In Peli’s last film, Sinister, we only followed the father’s life and reactions toward the events that occurred. In Dark Skies we follow three family members more than one, the youngest one, Sam, who we expect to be abducted the entire film. We follow Sammy, a bit, but mainly his older brother, Jesse, his personal life with friends, growing up, and being a role model for Sam; his mother, a struggling realtor, her new profound research on aliens and desperate attempts to save her child; and the father, Daniel, a workaholic, who is equally concerned about the events taking place, but will not even consider going as far as to believe aliens are encountering his family. Each family member is a potential candidate for abduction, as we learn from an alien specialist that family contacts, played by J.K. Simmons.

Dark Skies will keep you on the edge of your seat, it is a suspenseful, terrifying thriller that will keep you peaking between your fingers, but ultimately will not stick with you until the next morning. Dark Skies is not Peli’s best work, but what he does is take something no one would ever really think to be scary, and makes it absolutely terrifying.