‘Dark Skies’ is basically an episode of ‘The X Files’ minus Mulder and Scully.
The PG-13 thriller, which opened nationwide Friday, is similar to the 2002 film ‘Signs’ as it chronicles one family’s struggles to find answers following a series of mysterious and disturbing incidents.
Where ‘Signs’ had grand designs on tackling questions of faith amid a worldwide alien attack, the events in ‘Dark Skies’ are more claustrophobic and strictly isolated to the Barret family.
Writer-director Scott Stewart effectively builds the suspense with slow-burn pacing and grounds his film firmly in reality as the Barrets grapple with unemployment and financial problems. At times, moviegoers may think they're watching a movie on the Lifetime channel.
When unseen visitors invade the Barrets' home and family members exhibit unusual behavior, the Barrets approach the situation like any other family crisis; they try and take care of it themselves. In fact, the way the Barrets handle the matter is probably the way many families would in real life.
The Barrets’ helplessness in the face of an unknown force resonates, because many of today’s families feel powerless in the face of an unstable economy, which seems as much an unknown force as aliens from another galaxy.
Maybe that’s reading too much into Stewart’s film, but the meaning is there if not thoroughly explored.
Keri Russell anchors ‘Dark Skies’ with a strong performance as the mother trying to hold her family together, and J.K. Simmons adds welcome support as an expert on alien abduction.
‘Dark Skies’ creates a consistent atmosphere of dread, but the frantic climax is not enough to lift the film into the atmosphere of other top-notch sci-fi thrillers.
Where are Mulder and Scully when you really need them?