Dark Skies Blu-ray Review
One of the simplest and most primal fears we have is the fear of the unknown. Things we cannot see, cannot understand, cannot fathom are inexorably terrifying. Recent Hollywood horror films have tried to capitalize on this with varying degrees of success. DARK SKIES, which arrived in theaters in February 2013 and is now available on Blu-ray, has it in spades without wasting our time by adhering to any horror clichés. Add on top the fear of something happening to your children that you cannot explain, and DARK SKIES is one of the scariest, and best, films I’ve seen this year.
As DARK SKIES opens, we meet the Barret family, a peaceful family of four living the suburban dream. But as early as the films opening moments we see there are strains on the perfection they have sought. Patriarch Daniel (Josh Hamilton) is a struggling architect or engineer who has not been able to find a job since being laid off. Lacy (Keri Russell from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III and FELICITY) is a struggling real estate agent trying to keep things afloat for her family. Things really start falling apart when the family begins to be terrorized. It starts as acts that could possibly be pranks; someone stacking items in the kitchen, taking all of the family photos. The pranks quickly escalate, though, when their youngest, Sammy, mentions that The Sandman has been coming at night and he is the one who has been doing these things.
To determine what is happening to their family, the Barret’s reactivate their security system and eventually have cameras installed. All the while, though, the strange occurrences become even stranger. When all four members of the family start to black out, have seizures, or show signs of physical abuse, the drama really kicks into action. In addition to being involved in an unfathomable situation, the Barret’s are faced with the possibility of social workers finding them to be unfit parents. Finally realizing they may be facing something extra terrestrial in nature, they seek help and try to save their family.
DARK SKIES is a slow burn, long and steady, building to a tasty climax. It really presents itself as a family drama with a seemingly normal family who are dealing with the everyday travails of life. The filmmakers discuss that director Scott Stewart originally wanted this to be a ‘found-footage’ horror flick. I’m glad that they didn’t go that way, because as a traditional narrative film there are so many more looks, sights and sounds that add to the story. Additionally, the casting in this film was great. From Keri Russell to Josh Hamilton (who I really only remember as the jerky roommate in WITH HONORS), to the actors who play the kids (Dakota Goyo from REAL STEEL and Kadan Rockett), the entire cast is extremely authentic and they really FEEL like a family.
Top off the authenticity of the acting with some great science fiction elements, some great horror elements, and you’ve got a real winner in DARK SKIES. I’m a pretty big science fiction fan, and a decent horror fan, but this movie just completely shattered my expectations. And did I mention there is a great (though small) appearance by J.K. Simmons (from those Farmers Insurance commercials and Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN trilogy)? He’s great in his usual understated manner and compliments the rest of the film. DARK SKIES isn’t perfect, but in its genre’s (multiple) DARK SKIES is pretty stellar.
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) The video presentation for DARK SKIES emphasizes the family’s struggles as they deal with what may be an extra-terrestrial encounter. You’ll feel right in the middle of the action as things start to go haywire (and you might, like me, have to keep the lights on the night you watch it).
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio is similarly well done, giving DARK SKIES some ominous moments through both mixing and wonderful scoring.
Audio Commentary with Director Scott Stewart, Producer Jason Blum, Executive Producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, and Editor Peter Gvozdas (01:29:09) A great and informative commentary, while also providing some entertaining moments, this is one that you should definitely check out if you’re interested at all in the process. DARK SKIES presents a great package that almost makes up for the lack of additional content.
Alternate and Deleted Scenes (14:22) Presented with or without commentary by Scott Stewart and Peter Gvozdas, these are decent (but not great) scenes. I recommend watching with the commentary. 9 scenes are present on the Blu-ray, including First Tone; Second Tone; Sammy Outside with Neighbors; Alarm Tech No. 2; Daniel in Backyard with Neighbors; Daniel Takes a Walk; Lacy’s Brand; Daniel Yells at Neighbor; and Alternate Ending (that kind of isn’t).
DARK SKIES also comes with an UltraViolet digital copy, which you can redeem through one of any number of services.