If Dark Skies’ opening credits didn’t tell you it was produced by the people who brought you the Paranormal Activity franchise and Insidious you’d have guessed, such is its similarity to those films, as well as Poltergeist and Signs.
An alien abduction twist is added to the haunted house formula but Dark Skies’ derivative nature and familiar scare tactics make it feel less like its own entity and more of a compilation of better films; its wailing score is even reminiscent of The Shining of all things.
Scott Stewart’s horror doesn’t exactly succeed on the fear front but there’s still some admirable execution in places. Bar the youngest of the kids, the actors do a fine job at making the family unit feel real, while reliable character actor J.K. Simmons makes a welcome appearance – even if it is in a thankless expository role. There’s also an interesting backdrop: the family are suffering financial woes and these fiscal problems provide a better sense of dread than the extraterrestrial haunting.
It’s all middlingly distracting until the rushed final act tailspins, with clumsy hallucinatory touches and narrative reveals that feel like they've been included solely for the sake of surprise and confusion, rather than any natural escalation or fully developed story concerns. At odds with the rest of the film’s content, the handling of the climactic assault on the family serves to undo the goodwill Dark Skies had built up. [Josh Slater-Williams]