Scott Stewart’s Dark Skies — a tepid attempt at making an alien abduction yarn into a Paranormal Activity movie (a dubious enough notion at best) — is a boring little movie that serves one — and only one — useful purpose: It makes this week’s other opening movie, Snitch, seem slightly less awful. Presumably, this was not what the makers of Dark Skies had in mind, so the movie’s value may reasonably be reckoned as nil. Now, Stewart has made bad movies before: the goofy and unintentionally amusing Priest (2011) and the goofy and pretty dull Legion (2009). This one is too lame to even qualify as goofy, but, shades of Whitley Streiber, it sure is dull. You can tart it up (if that’s the term) with all manner of Paranormal Activity home-security-cam guff, but it’s still just basic alien abduction claptrap. The same sort of nonsense can be seen in all manner of speculation TV shows (while its only marginally intriguing aspects were done better in this past season’s American Horror Story: Asylum on FX, where they were merely part of an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink stew).
Here we have a downwardly mobile upper-middle-class family — headed by B-list actors Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton — who are already in dire straits thanks to the job market (the movie wants to be timely). The last thing they need are pesky aliens — especially pesky aliens that eat all the produce in their refrigerator. (Note: Aliens apparently like watermelon. This may be useful information someday.) Soon the aliens are making artistic arrangements of canned goods, tripping the burglar alarm, interfering with the image on the surveillance camera, ringing the doorbell and running — that sort of thing. If you’re still awake, there’s other jiggery-pokery — most of which you saw in the trailer — before mom figures it all out on the Internet and comes up with an expert who can help. Said expert is conveniently local and played by J.K. Simmons with all the conviction he brings to his insurance commercials — and he’s still the best thing in the movie.
Absolutely nothing happens here that you haven’t seen done before — and better — elsewhere. (That you’ve also seen it done worse — think The Fourth Kind — is not a bonafide recommendation.) Not surprisingly, Dark Skies even makes the same mistakes you’ve seen before — like everyone splitting up when they know they need to stick together. But really, the film’s biggest sin is simply that it is just too much of the same old stuff. It’s not even bad enough to work up the enthusiasm to dislike. It’s simply mediocre and boring — and that’s ever so much worse. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language — all involving teens.
Playing at Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher Cinema 7