Splatter Time Fun Fest 2015: Dark Skies (2013)

Screenshot 2015-10-04 12.18.50

Well, what do we have here?

Written By: Scott Stewart
Directed By: Scott Stewart

First things first, don’t get your hopes up that I’m writing a lot again. This may be the only movie I review for the entirety of October. I really take writing about movies on a day by day basis at this point. But, my enjoyment of horror movies has never waned, and Splatter Time Fun Fest has always been my baby. With that in mind I decided that I would at least try to watch some horror movies this October. There won’t be any award show, or a lot of reviews. But, you’re getting something, and at this stage that’s the most I can offer.

Dark Skies is an interesting cat of a film. I recall hearing mainly non-positive reviews about it when it came out. I can’t recall if those were from horror writers or just general film critics. But, I do remember glancing through a few reviews where the film was taken to task for various issues. Luckily for me my remembrance of those reviews was pretty vague and it didn’t completely color my opinion of Dark Skies before I had even had the chance to watch the movie.

Is Dark Skies a fantastic movie; no, it clearly is not. But it’s also not an awful movie, and in more ways than one it is an earnest movie that proudly wears the stripes of its director. There are obvious influences on this film, but those influences inform the film instead of taking the film over. All in all Scott Stewart has managed to craft an enjoyable horror film, and that’s something that I don’t take for granted at this stage in my movie watching life.

I write the last sentence because I’m pretty sure that the Bill Thompson of a few years ago would have easily dismissed Dark Skies. The old mantra of mine, that horror doesn’t scare me, still holds true. The opposite is true of my wife, and I would have largely ignored her reaction of being scared as not mattering to me a few years back. Nowadays I can look at a movie scaring someone and recognize the construction of the scare that is taking place. Mr. Stewart uses common family traits and ideals to set up his scares. He preys on the idea of helplessness and of the disintegration of the family unit. These are easy elements to hit, but the movie hits them very well and by leaning on those elements it gives the scares more heft than they otherwise would have.

That’s not to say that Dark Skies doesn’t suffer from some common horror missteps. The use of the dog is well, less than refreshing. At this point using a dog as an instrument to highlight evil has become such an overused trope that it barely registers with me anymore. Yet here it is being used in Dark Skies, and my reactions is, “Couldn’t you think of anything better than using the dog?” There are also some issues with characters lacking specific depth, and the film writing itself one too many easy outs. But, for a film that is founded on making well used tropes seem fresh the dog misstep is particular egregious.

My first foray back into horror after a long absence isn’t with a great film, but a good film that is quite enjoyable. The horror genre is a deeply rewarding genre, and a film like Dark Skies being middle of the pack despite offering such fresh takes on obvious tropes is further evidence of that fact. Maybe I’ll wrote some more this October, maybe I won’t. But, Dark Skies is a perfectly fine film to kick off my annual October festivities with.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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