Although the 4th of July has passed us by, at least in my neighborhood the fireworks can be heard throughout the night, so I feel it’s appropriate to continue talking about those summer horror films that have come out over the years. No, I don’t mean Jaws. So much has been said about the summer blockbuster and how brilliant it is. But set around the same holiday, I decided to take a look back at the Blumhouse flick, Dark Skies.
The Barretts are your normal suburban family. Lacy (Keri Russell) is a realtor, her husband Daniel (Josh Hamilton) is currently unemployed and the family is struggling financially as they put on a face for their neighbors. To make matters worse, one of their two sons has started sleep-walking and the other is going through puberty. That’s scary enough as it is, although the film doesn’t do much with the latter except make us a little uncomfortable. The sleep-walking is another matter, as the younger son Sam begins wandering around the house and things go missing or are rearranged to look like strange symbols.
If you think you know what force is behind these events, you’re probably guessing right. A local cop dismisses everything and we can’t help but chuckle. It’s the same old story. But even as their kids begin acting strangely, Daniel still doesn’t want to open up to friends. This opens the door for a myriad of discussions involving suburban life and how it’s considered embarrassing to seek help, but the film quickly dismisses this idea as more and more people look at the Barrett’s as a strange and possibly abusive household. We know better. This is a poor family struggling and one of the film’s most disturbing points comes when Daniel is on the phone with a security company. He asks, “What sensor was tripped?” Their response, “All of them.”
When it becomes apparent that they can’t turn to anyone they know, the parents seek the help of Edwin Pollard, a scene-stealing J.K. Simmons who lives with a bunch of cats and obsessive piles of evidence for alien species. The Barretts have one choice; give up, or defend their family. This leads me to one of the film's few question marks. As the climax ensues, I couldn’t help but wonder how no one saw or heard anything. Dogs bark, lights flash and a shotgun is used. Perhaps everyone went a few streets down to enjoy the fireworks. Either way, the payoff doesn’t provide much to talk about afterwards. But I have to give director Scott Stewart credit. The build-up is a fun atmospheric ride that really makes me reconsider neighborhood life.
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