In the seemingly never-ending cinematic quest to come up with something new, sometimes it is all too easy to forget that the tried and trusted can often work just as well – if done properly.

Dark Skies is a classic example of that – a film that offers little in the way of originality, but everything is put together so well that it barely seems to matter.

Yes, it’s the token ‘kid in danger from an unseen force’ flick that follows much the same ground laid by the likes of Insidious, but with numerous scenes of genuine suspense, and strong performances all round, director Scott Stewart’s effort still earns a thumbs up.

Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play husband and wife Lacy and Daniel Barrett, struggling to get by money-wise and care for their two sons.

So far, so normal, but things take a turn for the extraordinary when a series of incidents begin to afflict the family – both mental and physical.

It all starts off with the movie favourite ‘household items moved around’ phenomena, but before long it has progressed to flocks of birds flying into their house, the parents suffering nosebleeds and blackouts and the youngest son, Sam (Kaden Rockett), talking of being visited by ‘The Sandman’.

Eventually the family begin to believe that they may be being observed by things not of this earth, but find little help from either the police or family friends, who instead suspect that the parents may be mistreating their kids.

Desperate, Lacy and Daniel turn to alien expert Edwin Pollard (JK Simmons), who offers up some useful advice as the family prepare for the inevitable final showdown.

Despite only clocking in at just over 90 minutes, Dark Skies is very much of the slow-burn category, and anybody expecting a slam-bang effects fest will be sorely disappointed.

But by placing the emphasis squarely on the characters, rather than the situation, director Stewart builds a mood that, slowly but surely, reels the viewer in – with a handful of top-notch jolts topping things off nicely.

Yes, you could argue that the film is all build-up with little in the way of pay-off, or 90 minutes leading to a five minutes climax to be precise, but having been suckered in that really makes little difference.

Russell and Hamilton produce fine work as the Barrett parents, turning in performances that not only are likeable, but believable – a crucial plus in films of this ilk.

And both kids are also on top form, with Rockett and fellow youngster Dakota Goyo never once straying into the ‘annoying’ category that seems to be so easy for young actors.

Director Stewart, who has helmed the likes of Legion and Priest, shows an assured hand and orchestrates some genuine tension and suspense, as well as getting the best out of his cast.

To be brutally honest, I am struggling to come up with any real negatives regarding Dark Skies – other than the fact that much of the film covers ground that has been trodden many times before on the big screen.

But I’m not going to hold that against it, as the film offers enough shocks, twists and turns to satisfy most genre fans.

EXTRAS: Director commentary, alternate and deleted scenes

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.