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Dark Skies (2013)
Dimension Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/28/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/4/2013
We talk about a lot of facets of movies and filmmaking here, but we rarely talk about movie titles. I would venture to guess that most people, even die-hard cinephiles, don't give much thought to movie names, as they are often simply a reflection of the film's title or themes. For some writers, I'll bet that coming up with the title is the easiest part of the writing process, and I know that there have been cases where the title existed long before there was even an idea for the movie. (I'm currently trying to flesh out an idea for a TV series and while I've got the plot and characters in place, I can't think of an appropriate title.) The makers of Dark Skies should have put more thought into the title. The last thing you want is for your product to be confused with other things, as there is currently a series on TV called Falling Skies, and the 90s saw a show called Dark Skies. There's also been a movie called Night Skies, and there was the recent movieIron Sky. It would be a shame if audiences dismissed this film thinking that they'd seen it before, as it deserves some attention.
Dark Skies comes from Director Scott Stewart, who also directedLegion and Priest, two of the most visually interesting, but completely hollow movies to come along in the past decade. Both movies offered hyper-kinetic action and wild battle sequences, but no character development and both lacked intriguing stories. For once, it feels as if a filmmaker actually took criticism to heart, as there's no doubt that Stewart was aiming to change his reputation with Dark Skies. First of all, the script, also by Stewart, is very dense. We get plenty of character development, as we get to know each member of the family. The movie contains many details, some minor, which pop-up throughout the movie, showing that Stewart put a lot of thought into tying things together, and offering both red herrings and foreshadowing. The movie is in no way dull-looking, but Stewart has retreated from the "Hey ma, look at me!" camerawork found in his other movies. With no angels or vampires to show, Stewart concentrates on the claustrophobic space of the house and the dark shadows contained within.
However, in his effort to change his approach as a filmmaker, Stewart has gone too far in the other direction. He's attempted to make Dark Skies a psychological thriller with sci-fi and horror overtones, but this film is also crying out for some action. He does a great job of laying the groundwork in the first half, but we then wait and wait for the movie to kick into high gear during the second half...but it never happens. The ending is interesting (if not somewhat predictable), but the slow-burn really should have paid off in an all-out alien assault, which we don't get. Even those who appreciate quiet movies will find that Dark Skies is a tad slow.
The other major issues with Dark Skies is that it lacks a spark of originality. This is simplyThe Amityville Horror (family experiencing personal issues which may be exacerbating odd occurrences) mixed with Poltergeist (single house on a suburban block is targeted for supernatural activity) with a liberal dose of the aliens from any Whitley Streiber book. The result is a movie which offers a nice story and some solid creepy scenes, but you'll also feel that you've seen it before and that it needs to pick up the pace.
Dark Skies loses a few hours on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source material. The movie isn't overly colorful, but the colors do look good and the image is never overly dark or bright, despite the fact that this is a movie with plenty of dark scenes. The level of detail is very good and the image has a notable amount of depth to it. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The mix does a great job of backing up in the occurrences in the movie. We get a nice selection of stereo and surround effects, highlight noises happening in the various parts of the house. The "shock" scenes offer robust and wall-shaking subwoofer (with one scene bringing in too much bass).
The Dark Skies Blu-ray Disc contains only two extra features options. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Scott Stewart, Producer Jason Blum, Executive Producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, and Editor Peter Gvozdas. The Disc contains nine ALTERNATE & DELTED SCENES which run about 14 minutes and be viewed with commentary from Stewart and Gvozdas. There are several scenes here of the neighbors watching the Barrett's in a mysterious way. As presented here, it's difficult to tell if they are judgmental, or if the movie wants us to think that they are in on it. This sense of paranoia carries over into the alternate ending included here, which is much more bleak than the one from the finished film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.