Dark Skies American; Feb 22, 2013; 97 minutes; sci-fi-horror; Written and Directed by Scott Stewart; Entertainment One; Josh Hamilton as Daniel, Keri Russell as Lacy, Kadan Rockett as Sam, Dakota Goyo as Jesse.
The main protagonists of this film are not kids. But kids figure prominently.
Little Sam has been dreaming of The Sandman and seeing him in real life in his bedroom. His parents (Mom the successful real-estate salesperson and Dad the stressed unemployed job-seeker) comfort him but they don’t believe him. Strange things happen in the house but the cops find a logical reason to comfort the family. Strange things happen outside the house -- and on the kids’ bodies-- but (again) the adults (inside and outside the family) come up with answers that are “normal” or based on limited human “logic.” (Again, the medical world can only offer meds and protection.) More and more strange stuff happens and finally the wearing down of human rationalism occurs. And about time! It’s all too late, of course. Too late for the family, and too late for the audience who knew all along.
I totally get it. Believing what other people say is hard. It requires humility. Not that unbelievers are prouder than the average person. But setting one’s own limited logical mind aside and deciding to trust that someone telling you about the supernatural is actually, intelligent, honest, and sane...can be difficult. Even if that person is your child.
But really, isn’t this kind of unbelief based on a limited logical belief system kinda normal? What is this drama saying about unbelief that Jaws, say, didn’t say? At least Jaws honed in and focused on unbelief based on greed. I wanted to give Dark Skies a chance. I’ll give any story a chance if there’s a good psychological subtext to it.
I kept wondering if this film was going to go...ya know..deeper. What did the alien mean? Was the story about Daniel’s ineffectualness, since he’s being jobless and all? Was it about houses and what happens behind closed doors? Were we seeing an allegory about kids being stressors or about the way we see ourselves as “normal” and other people as “different” or crazy”? Was it about our lack of ability to empathize with someone we have decided is different? I seriously went through the gamut of questions and then. . .I realized this story was going down the wholly unoriginal path of a typical alien abduction story. And when we got to the scene with the expert loner researcher giving our besieged couple advice, my heart sank. I probably would have loved it if the characters’ suffering was better depicted. I don’t know if it’s the predictability of American plotting or the shallowness of the storyline. Seriously, this story skims the surface. Which it should not have because it seemed to promise more at the outset.
Dark Skies is okay. It doesn’t touch the soul, though. But it’s not a total loss, of course. Few films really are. It’s good to be reminded yet again that empathy and humility go together and that humans show their lack of empathy by continually coming up with a logical reason for not believing what desperate people are saying. So, that’s something. But really, The Babadook did that much better.