Two thirty AM Friday Morning, review time, let’s do this!
So it’s been a stale winter for horror flicks–not that I much blame them. Coming off of that autumn would dampen anyone’s spirits.
Saw Dark Skies and I have to say I’ve got to agree with those folks giving early tweets about it. It wasn’t stunning but it was damn suspenseful.
Pros: The alien genre is still a largely untapped market. I know we’ve had our space monsters for decades and decades now, and the old classics still pave much of the way for how we like to think about little green men (“skinny grey men” may one day catch on). Where in possession movies, you’re used to screaming and contorting and the occasional atrocity; in haunted house movies, you’re used to the crescendo of strange unseen activity… in alien movies, you never know what you’re going to get. There’s the blend of the seen and the unseen. Especially with the more recent poltergeist/possession style crossover with the alien abduction genre (which I’m still a HUGE fan of, somebody please astound me), we have a whole toolkit of possible things to startle us around every corner.
And startle they do. There’s a jump scare in this one that had me twisting, which alone gives it my stamp of approval. And there’s a perpetual tension that even as it seems cliche, music escalating fittingly, loud sound about to startle, it’s easy to feel, well, Un-easy.
The acting was good, the character development wasn’t particularly mind-blowing (but I mean, Jesus, thank Breaking Bad for setting that bar too high for anyone to match these days) but it was solid and worked well.
They did great with their aliens for most of the movie. Props for keeping it underplayed. Horror flicks have been showing too much lately.
And though there were only two or three elements that I actually picked up on, there were subtleties that went below the radar for the first half of the movie, which I LOVED. Thank you for not beating us over the head when you do something clever (at least until we get to the flashbacks at the end reminding us of scenes we saw forty minutes before, but ya know).
The cons are the typical cons. There was no originality and little depth. While I mentioned that the suspense was an achievement because of the possibilities for surprise, it was still your pretty classic step by step alien movie. There was little happening on a philosophical level to chew on, or even much to give alien enthusiasts/horror buffs much new to mull over (the way The Fourth Kind did actually manage, despite the atrocity of a plot along with it).
And there was no style. The first hour felt like a montage of various alien/horror movies, running the gamut from ET to Poltergeist to Signs to the more recent Paranormal Activity flicks. (They missed a great chance to throw a nod at Ghostbusters in the third act, which pained me, considering). And by the time the plot took off, it was really standard. The two most recent alien flicks that come to mind are Signs and Fourth Kind, both of which, (despite varying levels of success) had very distinct flavors and styles. This one was boring. The only interesting shot in the whole film was during one of Josh Hamilton’s job interviews. I mean, would a little spice kill you?
That all said, and nitpicking aside, no, it wasn’t brilliant. But was it suspenseful? Absolutely. I think it echoes October’s Sinister, but with far better suspense (if in exchange for a weaker payoff.)
I was satisfied, which is at least better than I’ve felt after most horror movies lately. A solid B.
Karl Pfeiffer is a writer, ghost hunter, and blogger/vlogger. He won the first season of the pilot reality series Ghost Hunters Academy, and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team on the same network. Since then he’s lead the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel, studied religion and writing at Colorado State University, and published his first novel, Hallowtide, in October of 2012. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com