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"Dark Skies" (2013 relase; 97 min.) brings the story of the Barrett family. Mom (played by Keri "Felicity" Russell) and dad (played by Josh Hamilton) are stressing because of their precarious financial situation (Dad is in between jobs, mom is barely hanging on to her real easate brokerage). They have two sons, 13 yr. old Jesse and 5 or 6 yr. old Sammy. Then slowly but surely strange things are starting to happen in and around the house, including a strange "remodeling" of the kitchen, then disappearance of pictures, and then hundreds of birds flying head-on into the house for no apparent reason. What is going on here exactly? At this point we're not even half-way into the movie, and things are to get a lot more tense than that still. But to tell you more of a plot-heavy movie like this would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: first, I had seen the trailer for this movie a few times in recent weeks, and thought it looked kinda interesting. I took a chance on this, and am glad I did. It is not a horror movie as such, nor is it really a sci-fi movie. "Dark Skies" actually falls somewhere in between, and on more than one occasion during the movie I saw elements from the "Paranormal Activity" franchise and also from the "Poltergeist" franchise just to name those. Second, what a delight to see Keri Russell again,as I sort of lost track of her. It is incredible that 2013 marks the 15th anniversary of when "Felicity" first hit the small screen. Russell is ageing quite nicely (if you can call someone in their mid/late-30s "ageing"), and she carries this movie, period. Kudos also to young Kadan Rockett as little Sammy, and J.K. Simmons who plays a small role late into the movie. Third, I must give a shout-out to the excellent placement of the Drums song "Days" midway into the movie, bringing a few moments of tension relief (for reasons I don't want to reveal) at that point in the movie.

The screening I saw "Dark Skies" at tonight here in Cincinnati was quite well attended. Smartly the director and producers of the movie made this into a PG-13 movie, rather than an R rated movie, and the audience tonight was heavily tilted towards the younger HS kids. They were loving this movie, laughing and screaming (sometimes at the same time) at all the right moments, and when the credits started to roll, the audience even gave an applause. Bottom line: "Dark Skies" is surprisingly entertaining, and better than I had expected.
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...the hatred for this movie. Then again, I didn't understand the critics dislike of "The Forth Kind" from a few years ago or the dislike of "Fire In The Sky" from many years ago. I seems like whenever a movie comes along that doesn't involve a bike riding alien going over the moon (E.T.) or monsters blowing up the planet (Independence Day)the critics just can't seem to wrap their heads around it. I've read about this movie being compared to the Paranormal Activity series. This had NOTHING to do with ghosts. The usage of camcorders is minimal and I wouldn't for a second consider this film part of the "shaky cam" genre. I knew within the first ten minutes this film was about alien abductions. You're either a fan of this sort of film or you're not. As far as your belief in aliens or inter-dimensional beings....I'm religion. The movie itself? Brilliant acting. Amazing direction. Perfectly cast. Excellent score. Many genuine moments that made me recoil in shock....not in a gross out way but in fright. One of the best entries in the alien abduction genre I've ever seen. Do you remember those few REALLY freaky episodes of the X Files? That's what this is only better Ignore the critics and judge for yourself....
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on March 17, 2013
I just took my daughter to see this on the big screen because I liked the bird collision with the window when I saw the trailer. The film started with the slow to moderate pacing of witnessing a family in the throes of tension created by the economy---bunker mentalities abound.Then something happened in Sammie's bedroom that made me jump the same way I did with "signs". Then pow. I was in. I immediately thought of the first script version of Close Encounters written by Paul Schrader "Taxi Driver". Spielberg turned it down saying it was mean spirited and didnt want a hostile invasion story. This movie was that draft. This independent piece was a homage to Close Encounters of the third kind, ET, The Birds, Poltergeist, Signs, and Paranormal Activity. Harvey Weinstein greenlit a film which was carried surprizingly well by the acting chops of Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton. I actually cared what happened to these people and thats rare for a scary film to be character and plot driven. The director kept his camera tight on the faces so the actors could not milk their expressions. The blank face fear always works. The soundtrack is very effective in its use against silence. The tension spilling on the children made me believe this couple has been toxic toward each other for a long time---long before the movie's circumstances introduced the audience to them. And maybe that tension drew the attacks to their home in the first place.
Why not being that original, the film compensated with the right mix of old recipes without diluting its ability to reveal enough of the story on a need to know basis to the audience just as it did to the characters. I didnt feel the need to be smarter than the movie. Expect a sequel.
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on April 23, 2013
I'm not one for rave reviews. I find most films trite, redundant, regurgitated, shallow and self righteous. I can hardly sit through most horrors, because it all seems rushed, boring, and pedestrian, so why wouldn't this. I gave it a go. Standards of other films set in immediately and fast, and though it touches on elements so many other films have in so many ways: of Spielberg genius as Poltergeist and Close Encounters come to mind, (which no doubt people will claim metaphors to endlessly), but the film holds its own in a very simple, straight forward non CGI nonsense way, and its kind of brilliant because truly the ensemble cast does so well together, its believable how terrified they are. I believe the reason why Poltergeist was such a novelty, was not only the absolute terror of a film that stands the test of time, but there was real substance to it (the conversations that Beatrice Straight had with Jobeth Williams' character, how touching and special it was, and with the mothers son, how soothing she was, in a time of absolute pinnacle terror) That is achieved here. Yeah it's no Poltergeist, but in a market saturated with hundreds of turds released a year, this one comes out truly shining. It was very well done.

I am not good with what I want to say when detailing, but the colors are great, the story holds its own on minimal special effects, and considering its from the same people that bring us the ridiculous Paranormal Activity franchise, (loathed Insidious) I absolutely loved this.
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on January 3, 2015
I am a total horror movie freak, but not one for the whole alien abduction thing. But I really liked this one. It was refreshing and interesting. I loved the plot, and how it unfolded. But it was very slow to start. So if you want a movie that is gripping right out of the gate you maybe disappointed. I was very impressed with the acting. I thought the two children did wonderfully. This is definitely one of the better alien abduction films out there in my opinion.
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on November 4, 2015
Horror isn't my favorite genre but this one was worth watching. There are a lot of alien invasion movies and Dark Skies took a unique approach. I think it was a realistic approach. If intelligent beings travel millions of light years to our planet, we would be like lab rats to them. It's that simple. Well acted, love watching Keri Russell. She is in my top 16 favorite younger actress list. The reason i don't like this genre is the writers make the victims out to be sooooo stupid! Without spoiling too much i will say this: If your child is having horrible nightmares or being visited by aliens, don't leave them in their room. take them to your room until you figure it out.

the disc played well. totally satisfied. 5 stars on that note.
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on August 21, 2013
This movie was pretty well made, even if it's stealing some tricks from The Fourth Kind and Paranormal Activity. I enjoyed the slow build up of the fear, the unknown events going on, the creepy surprises, and the acting was good as well.

The story has a surprise twist at the end which I did not see coming, which is rare for me! I enjoyed it a lot - and recommend it for any sci fi/alien/horror fan.

I probably would have given it 5 stars if it didn't have so much cross reference to Fourth Kind and Paranormal Activity as it's not a 100% original idea or format.
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on July 20, 2015
This is one of my favorite movies about aliens and paranormal activity that we hear so much about. This movie will definitely make you jump out of your skin the first time you watch it. They put this movie together very well and didn't ruin the ending like every other movie these days. I highly recommend this movie to people who like to be scared and freaked out. I wish more movies were like this. Just when you're not expecting it, it's there and just when you're expecting the next part to happen, it's not there. I ABSOLUTELY love this movie! This movie also has a great cast too.
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on November 23, 2013
There are some reviewers who claim Dark Skies is just a re-hash full of un-original ideas around alien abductions but what they fail to understand is that there IS a whole lot of mystery behind many actual still unexplained possible alien encounters. Dark Skies doesn't try and ramp up the experience with a lot of new Hollywood mumbo jumbo ridiculousness, they keep it focused on what's better: reality.

Dark Skies treads a line between 'Communion' (movie version of Whitley Streiber's actual experiences of allegedly making contact with aliens) and the stylistic elements of 'Signs' (but thankfully without the over-acted and shoddily created stereotypical characters. Sorry Shyamalon, it had to be said) What emerges is a story that although you may have seen it before is a very plausible, frightening and at times terrifying view of a family at odds involving what to do about the aliens who seem bent on eventually abducting one of them. I found myself immersed in the story and caring about the characters and what was going to happen to them, which isn't something Hollywood is known for in sci-fi and horror movies of late.

Did I get any surprises regarding the person who would eventually be abducted? No, and anyone who's watched the genre regularly will see and assemble the clues long before the answer actually comes, but that doesn't really matter when you are treated to such a good caliber thriller. Reality doesn't need plot twists, and Dark Skies was realistic enough to rise above the usual fare of covering up a weak film by trying to offer a surprise at the end so that people sitting in the theater for an hour and a half watching drivel don't feel the experience is completely wasted. Translation: if you want an unrealistic, crappy acted and shot film with plot holes galore and characters you can't wait to meet their demise, Dark Skies is not for you.

So if I enjoyed the film so much, why not 5 stars? The reason lies in the secondary elements of Goyo's character and the older crowd he wants to hang with. We see numerous times where Goyo's big brother character is caring and mature yet playful enough to still be a kid. His interactions with his little brother are terrific and this is where the filmmakers should have kept their focus. The scenes with Goyo and the older kids smoking pot and groping each other or making rude sexual remarks were pointless and easily tossed out of the film. The aliens being smart as they are portrayed would still have felt his rebel attitude against his father and still would have used it against the family in the long run to further emotionally separate him from them. Hopefully with the sequel (and yes, we WILL see a sequel) the focus will be 100% where it should be. Dark Skies is an intelligent film and it shouldn't have to pander to adolescent stereotype behavior in order to get young people to see it. If the adults are realistically portrayed throughout, then the same should be true of the young actors as well, especially since the young actors in their family scenes here are so terrific and often outshine the adults. It isn't necessary for Dark Skies to have even the slightest hint of any of the throwaway teen tripe so prevalent in many of the watch-it-once-and-forget-it genre of scary movies.

Still, if you're a fan of being frightened without gore and with a good story that makes you excited to see a sequel, (another very tough thing to do when we know most sequels usually stink) then the weather forecast calls for Dark Skies.
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on May 23, 2013
Dark Skies breaks no new ground, is ridden with cliches, and rips off just about every other genre film that came before it. So why does it deserve the 5 stars nobody wants to give it? Because it works. And by "works," I mean it's SCARY. Dark Skies mixes the tension building of Signs with the family corrosion of Insidious; demonic possession being swapped out for alien infestation. It also has some great B movie elements and an open ending that makes it a fun movie to watch drunk, high, or with your relatives if your are into that sort of thing.

The first act is pretty slow and dumb. Bizarre wildlife behavior and screaming kids with vacant expressions doesn't do the rest of the movie justice. The couple that serves as the focal point of this story are so naive it's hilarious. Especially the husband, who is jobless and wears a permanent neckbeard. He goes from interview to interview, gets turned down everywhere for being such a candy ass, and ends up taking his frustration out on the neighborhood children in one very funny scene. The arrival of evil aliens is what keeps this family from falling apart.

Once the alien invaders show up halfway through, the movie takes off. The husband and wife team up to hunt down their "Father Merrin," who turns out to be a horribly miscasted J.K. Simmons (Schillinger in HBO's Oz). The director could have chosen just about anyone to play alien conspiracy expert Edwin Pollard, but he chooses the one guy who could not have done a worse job. Lucky for the audience, Simmons acts as a consultant instead of fighting the aliens head-on, and gets minimal screen time.

The film has plenty of very creepy moments for a movie of its kind. It blends in elements borrowed from many recent horror movies instead of sci-fi, and does not take itself too seriously during breaks in the main plot events. The soundtrack is bass heavy, and features a rhythmic beat that is in perfect sync with the sheepish husband's heart. The husband becomes more unstable as the tension rises and the audience is quick to know it through the eerie score.
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