About three weeks ago I received a weird unmarked postcard in the mail. It was black with strange red symbols and the only text to be found on it were the words “Were You Chosen?” I snapped a photo of it and texted it to my girlfriend and Gerard Iribe. Neither one knew what it was. Gerard saw the Texas address on the reverse side of the postcard and said that’s Scott Wampler’s address. At first I was like wow, this must be a wedding invite from the man. I can’t believe I got one. I felt honored. But wait! That was my address! LOL. So I did what any rationale person would do after exhausting their lifelines. I “googled” it! It turns out that was a slogan for the newest Weinstein product, Dimension Films’ Dark Skies. And that was the end of that. I tossed the postcard aside disappointed it wasn’t anything more. I want adventure in my life. If it’s not, don’t waste my time.
So it all came full circle when last week UPS left a package outside my office. Inside it I found a Blu-ray review copy of…you guessed it…Dark Skies. I remember seeing the previews before in the theater, but thought very little of it at the time. The film kind of came and went in the theaters and truth be told, I pretty much forgot all about it. Actually, I know this sounds sad, but I had to check on Flixster to watch a trailer for the film to remember what it was. And then I was like oh yeah…I remember this one. I checked online and pretty much saw reviewers split in the middle across the board so I thought to myself, let’s give it a chance.
As I mentioned before, Dark Skies pretty much came and went in the theaters. It was released February 22nd this year and grossed about 18 million. Considering it only had a 3.5 million dollar budget, I’d classify it as a winner winner chicken dinner. Don’t forget, we still have home video sales yet to accumulate too. Hey Bob and Harvey Weinstein, pick me! Pick me! I have good, low budget screenplays to produce too. I can make you a lot of money.
The film was both written and directed by Scott Stewart. It stars Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett and even J. K. Simmons. And if some of the producers names sound familiar on this title, they should as they are the same ones that did Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister. And I could be wrong, but I swear the same house they used in Paranormal Activity 2 is recycled here. I don’t mind, but it’s sad in my opinion that it was that easy to pick out.
Dark Skies tells the story of an unlucky, “chosen” suburban family, couple Daniel (Hamilton) and Lacy Barrett (Russell) and their two boys, Sammy (Rockett) and Jesse (Goyo). When strange and unexplained things start happening in the Barrett household, as you can imagine, emotions start to escalate. Family members become split and start to grow apart. What’s going on in the house? Is it a ghost? An alien? A furry little mouse? I’ll never tell you. When things go too far and their sons’ safety takes top priority, Daniel and Lacy quickly regroup and become determined to find out what deadly force is at play here and most importantly, how to stop it at all costs.
I think Dark Skies has a lot going for it. It’s creepy and suspenseful. You want to keep watching it. You want to know how it resolves itself. However, it feels awful conventional and formulaic in its trapped horror genre script. I suppose you can say it plays it safe. It’s more interesting and satisfying, in my opinion, than a Paranormal Activity film (after number four I will never see another one…I hope), but I guess I just wanted more or something strikingly different to separate this one from all the others. That’s not to say this is a bad movie, it’s just my way of warning you that there’s nothing you haven’t seen before here so I wanted to make sure I didn’t get your hopes up or anything. Like the million and one other reviewers out there, I’m split down the middle on this one, hence my 2.5 score.
Dark Skies graces the Blu-ray format with a safe 1080p AVC MPEG-4 transfer. It comes complete with a widescreen presentation of 2.40:1. Things never look bad here, in fact things look great in outside shots such as the killer outdoor pool scenes, but I wanted more. I saw halos and some crush. Come on. This is a Blu-ray release not a Digital Download. You can’t have that. Or at least you shouldn’t have that. Black levels weren’t always the deepest either. Other than that, things looked up. Colors were natural and vibrant when needed and you could count individual strands of facial hair and see textures in things you and I most always take for granted in the real world. There are no visual blemishes, specks or dirt in the print. It’s a great presentation, just not a reference one.
Things go bump in the night here, as expected, but for the most part this one’s a heavy front dialogue piece. Unfortunately never once did the audio get carried away. The 5.1 DTSHD-MA lossless surround track kicks in at all the right moments, but it’s not fully engaging like say an Insidious or a Sinister presentation is. But you can only judge it in regards to what you are given to work with, not what’s missing. I had trouble understanding dialog a few times, but for the most part words were intelligible and clear. The fact that I can’t even remember the film’s score now while thinking about it probably means it wasn’t that memorable, huh? I guess I just wanted an extremely immersive experience or at least more so than I got. Available in the disc’s main menu are selectable options for English and Spanish subtitles (labeled Captions in the disc’s menu system).
Well, let’s be honest. There’s not much here to be found here folks. Yeah, we get the seemingly obligatory commentary track, but really all we have in the extra department is a handful of deleted scenes that barely run 14 minutes in total length. Had it not been for a portable UltraViolet code and DVD disc, the score would have been a lot lower here. Oh well, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Let’s take a closer examination of what you’ll find as far as extras on this Blu-ray release.
- Audio Commentary – Here we have one feature commentary track that includes commentary from Writer/Director Scott Stewart, Producer Jason Blum, Executive Producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Editor Peter Gvozdas.
- Alternate & Deleted Scenes (HD, 14:22) – We have about 14 minutes of deleted scenes here complete with optional commentary from Writer/Director Scott Stewart and Editor Peter Gvozdas. The alternate scenes, as they appear on the disc include “First Tone,” “Second Tone,” “Sammy Outside With Neighbors,” “Alarm Tech No. 2,” “Daniel in Backyard with Neighbors,” “Daniel Takes a Walk,” “Lacy’s Brand,” “Daniel Yells at Neighbor” and an “Alternate Ending.”
- DVD – A second disc is included in this Blu-ray package…a DVD disc! It contains a Standard Definition version of the film. Surprise, surprise!
- UltraViolet – Included in the Blu-ray set is a leaflet with an UltraViolet code to redeem online and take this film along with you on all your favorite portable devices. I’d rather have an iTunes file, but that’s my problem, eh.
So I don’t like spoiling things for folks, but I can’t help being honest either. People have compared this film to Signs, but I don’t think that’s fair comparison to make. The family dynamics and breakdowns are there, but I thought Signs was a heck of a lot more creepy and tension filled. I mean remember when there was that movement in the corn fields that made the hair on your arms stand up? I never experienced that here. I’d put this on par with your Paranormal Activity films and definitely notches below the brilliant Insidious. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the original screenplay took only six weeks to write. I don’t know, but to me…that’s not nearly long enough. You need to vet these things out. Six months, yeah, but not six weeks. That’s like asking a baby to spell. Oh well, not my problem. For anyone who is interested, I’d recommend a rental first. This one comes out on May 28th. If you want it asap, make sure you pre-order it now. And as always thank you for supporting our site and enjoy…or at least make every effort to do so.