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Like many loving parents, Lacy and Daniel Barrett (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) have retreated to quiet suburban streets to raise their children. They are more or less content until a series of strange occurrences at night unsettle them. Their son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) is particularly disturbed by events which include a confluence of migrating birds smashing into the house. With the police and other authority figures apparently unable to help, Lacy and Daniel are gradually drawn to a supernatural interpretation of events. Unfortunately, as an expert on the paranormal (J.K. Simmons) informs them, there may not be much they can do to resist the spirits. Even worse, when Lacy and Daniel begin to feel themselves losing control of their own actions, it raises the possibility that the spirits aren't merely within the house; they may be within them...
For more about Dark Skies and the Dark Skies Blu-ray release, see Dark Skies Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 28, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Keri Russell, Dakota Goyo, Josh Hamilton, Annie Thurman, J.K. Simmons, Trevor St. John
Director: Scott Charles Stewart
» See full cast & crew
Dark Skies Blu-ray Review
Paralyzing fear realized on film.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 28, 2013
We've been having some strange things going on around here.
What's more terrifying than the absolute unknown? Alien encounters represent the pinnacle of the unexplainable, the incomprehensible, the unknowable, and the unseen, at least the unexplainable, incomprehensible, unknowable, and unseen to those who have yet to experience the fear of visitations or, worse, forced abductions. Call them by any name -- extraterrestrials, UFOs, grays -- but their existence is based only on scientific conjecture, rambling anecdotes, blurry photographs, or after-the-fact sketches. It's a subject so divisive that reactions to sightings and abductions are met with curiosity, humor, ridicule, repulsion, and terror. Those who claim to have seen them, interacted with them, been taken by them are labeled as paranoid, delusional, witnesses, lucky ones, heroes, the chosen few. Dark Skies tells the tale of one family's in-home ordeal with aliens, close encounters of the most frightening kind. The film weaves together a tale of the psychological trauma, the physical evidence, and the sheer terror of numerous encounters that begin innocently enough but evolve into something far more sinister and deeply-rooted in time. It's a frightening picture, one that's very well made and sure to chill believers, terrify those who fear the grays, and entertain those just looking for a good yarn.
The Barrett family -- father Daniel (Josh Hamilton), mother Lacy (Keri Russell), and sons Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett) -- lives a relatively normal suburban life. Daniel's out of work, Lacy's in real estate, Jesse's finding himself excited about the opposite sex, and Sam's a regular young boy who looks up to his older brother. It's closing in on the fourth of July, but it soon becomes clear that independence for this family will become more than an annual observance, instead morphing into a struggle to be free from the harassment of unwelcome visitors. Things begin to unravel around the home in rather fast fashion. Photographs disappear from their frames, food is spilled from the refrigerator, objects are inhumanly stacked. Worse, Sam begins to undergo terrible out-of-body experiences. Soon, the entire family begins to fall victim to the strange occurrences. When their worst fears are confirmed -- they've been targeted by extraterrestrials -- they must band together in hopes of fending off a threat they know nothing about, cannot control, and that seems determined to destroy their lives at any cost.
Dark Skies may be bland to begin, but it gains an intensity that never relents as the story unfolds. The character backgrounds feels more like noise than anything else; it's all rather routine and wholly unoriginal, but admittedly critical, to giving shape to the family and creating a sense of closeness with the audience that will prove valuable in the later stages as the film succeeds in drawing its viewers into the home and into the very essence of fear. As it moves on from depicting "average suburbia" to the unexplainable goings-on to the absolute worst-case-scenario, it evolves into a superior form of the modern scare movie, its scenes of stacked products, disappeared photos, and overturned kitchens far more chilling than anything seen in the bland Paranormal or Blair Witch movies. The cinematic flavor, rather than the "home video/this is real/found footage" gag works better in relating the true sense of terror that comes with experiencing the unexplainable, either that or Dark Skies is just so far and away the superior of those pictures from a technical, structural, scripted, and acted perspective that otherwise dull moments are enhanced by a movie that's far more effective at involving its audience. Or, perhaps, it's that unease that comes with the inevitable, or perhaps it's an individual viewer's own fears manifested on the screen. Whatever the case may be, Dark Skies relentlessly attacks its subject and it's sure to instill a very real, spine-tingling, don't-look feeling in its audience, particularly those with an aversion to aliens, those who suffer from a very real case of close encounters chills.
Dark Skies create a very real, very palpable atmosphere of, first, terror of the unknown and, later, the paranoia that comes with the revelation and undeniable conclusion as to what is at work behind the disturbances and, more importantly, why. The cast does a great job of selling it; each of the family members are terrific individually but it's in their togetherness that the film builds its foundation. There's a very real sense of care, unease, and panic that graduates into paranoia. They all skillfully handle the mundane and the challenging alike, working through the broad range of emotions but also convincing their audience of some of the darker, more nefarious moments that might have come across as silly but here only add to the overall sense of hopelessness. The picture builds towards a strong conclusion that's punctuated by a good twist and ends with an excellent final shot that will leave viewers pondering the unseen next step in the process. Better, Dark Skies displays a technical mastery within its range. While the film isn't all that heavy on special effects, what's here is nothing short of chilling, and the skill with which basic elements are blended with visual effects and the brewing sense of internal and external character and environmental chaos has almost no equal in the alien visitation genre.
Dark Skies Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dark Skies brightens up video screens with a fantastic high definition presentation. The picture fluctuates between daytime and nighttime footage, both displayed to excellent results. The film opens on a bright suburban street that's almost like a moving digital postcard of modern America. Color balance is flawless; the red, white, and blue of American flags, green lawns, baby blue paint jobs on houses, and all the other splashes of color look amazing. The image is also crisp and neatly defined, with precision details near and far, evident on concrete and even blades of grass. It sets a great tone for the remainder of the picture to come. Well-lit scenes reveal intricate facial textures and clothing lines and seams to an extent that rivals the finest HD video productions. Even at nighttime, details are incredible and the image remains sharp and focused even when there's not much to see beyond shadows and outlines. Black levels are ultra-reliable, and flesh tones are well balanced. The HD video sheen is evident but not distracting. Slight banding appears in some places, but rarely to a distractible level. That's really the only blemish on an otherwise excellent Blu-ray transfer from Anchor Bay.
Dark Skies Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dark Skies features a very strong and well balanced DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The movie begins with a classic, bass-heavy foreboding low that calls attention to the film's deeply seeded terror before switching to a more cheerful exterior that will only last less than an act. The transition sees some gentle but positive and nicely immersive suburban ambience that effortlessly transforms the listening area into a modern neighborhood. There aren't many extremely heavy sound effects until the end of the film; one of the few of the major ones along the way is an ear-piercing ringing of a security alarm that effortlessly pulses through the stage and creates a real sense of instant panic. The end minutes deliver the heaviest content. Bass can get a little rattly at the very bottom, but it's tremendously effective at pushing the listener into the terror, getting the blood flowing, the spine tingling, the hair raising. The low end expertly grips the audience and doesn't relent. Dialogue is firm and accurate through the center. This isn't an always-active track, but when it's on it's very effective both technically and in the way it absorbs its audience into terror.
Dark Skies Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dark Skies contains a commentary and an assortment of alternate and deleted scenes. DVD and digital copies are also included.
Dark Skies Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dark Skies may be the most terrifying pure alien abduction film since Fire in the Sky. It's straightforward but effectively so. It's smartly cast, its characters are well developed beyond the generic opening, and every piece fits together beautifully. At worst it will entertain its audience, at best it will instill a deep fear and reinforce long-held terrors in those who are afraid of the dark and what exists in it. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Dark Skies features fantastic video and audio. A couple of extras are included. Highly recommended.
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Dark Skies Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dark Skies Blu-ray - April 9, 2013
Anchor Bay Entertainment and Dimension Films have announced the Blu-ray release of writer/director Scott Stewart's Dark Skies, starring Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett and J.K. Simmons. The supernatural thriller streets on May 28th.
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