The all-American Barrett family–working mother, laid-off father, and two imaginative young boys–living in any-town USA cope with everyday problems as a string of ever-eerie and harmful events befall them and only them, as their youngest son insists he is being visited by the Sandman.
Who’s in It?
Keri Russell plays the matriarch of the family, eliciting sympathy and helping you root for and not against the family, while 13-year-old Torontonian Dakota Goyo plays one of two sons. And that guy J.K. Simmons shows up as the kooky outsider who may know what’s going on.
There is an emerging genre of family-horror films (think Insidious, Paranormal Activity, Sinister) centering on a family with whom we spend a lot of time, learning their tendencies and quirks, and are not only meant to relate to, but care about. It is a decidedly effort here to witness a flawed family state, torn by issues that are universal. In Dark Skies we meet the loving couple that works hard and struggles in this economy, while raising their two boys, one a young teen experimenting with pot and girls.
American flags line the streets, a barbeque is going in the backyard, and neighbors spend time with each other in this typical suburb with ordinary people. So when the Barrett’s kitchen is disturbed, when the alarms sound, and when they have an eerie avian encounter, we don’t just jump with them, we worry with them.
The film’s earnest effort to endear the family helps the movie partially succeed on an emotional level, but it doesn’t allow for enough scares. Weird occurrences alternate with familial issues, some of which, like the father attending an unsuccessful interview, are completely superfluous. What’s more, the film is utterly formulaic, as after a series of both normal and paranormal problems, the worried family heads online, learns about what is happening, contacts some sage loon who can give the advice, and then they hold up and try to save their family.
Disturbing moments are early but not often until reaching a frenzied finale that skirts the edge of showing too much. It’ll get your heart racing, but aside from a few images, little will linger with you afterwards. Unless, however, like the Barretts, you’ve been chosen.
Should You See It?
A decent horror film with some scares, the answer is yes if you haven’t seen the trailer, but no if you have, for, as is too often the case with horror film lately, it gives away most everything.
Among the items meant to humanize this family is the stereotypical teenage bad-influence of friend. The parents don’t like their son hanging around with him, and this hysterical and truly random line is probably one reason why. “I got this girl riding my jock. Come on man, you gotta go downtown!”