Familiar in almost every aspect, Dark Skies is every haunted house movie ever made, with just one minor twist up its sleeve: the monsters preying on the beleaguered family aren’t ghosts, they’re aliens.
Not the kind of aliens that land on Earth in giant spaceships and prompt an all-out interstellar war, though. Neither are they the kind to build crop circles or make weird lights appear in the sky. Nope, these aliens are the kind that lurk around your house, stack your belongings on top of one another, and occasionally steal your kids.
For all intents and purposes, these aliens are poltergeists.
As the clichés pile up, you’ll find yourself playing a mental game of horror movie bingo. Mark off one square when the cutesy kid whispers that something evil is visiting him in the middle of the night, and another when the parents tell him he’s just having nightmares. Tick another one when the police show up but can’t help, another when it turns out animals can see things we can’t, and yet another when the mother does an off-brand Google search to find a website about conspiracy theories that conveniently explains exactly what’s going on.
By the time JK Simmons makes an appearance as a lazily sketched UFO nut – with the obligatory crazy wall of photos and umpteen cats – you can yell “House!” and leave the cinema.
Because there aren’t really any surprises waiting for you in the final third. An odd note of patriotism creeps in during the final showdown, as our all-American family huddles together in their McMansion, hoping to ward off the intruders with their newly acquired shotgun while Independence Day fireworks go off behind the Statue of Liberty on TV. For a moment, it seems like the film might be making a misguided effort to say something about national identity, but it’s a very brief moment, quickly nudged out of the way for the compulsory final sting.
This is horror by numbers, and all the glow-in-the-dark paint in the world can’t brighten up a picture this dated.