Marrieds at the Movies: A Review of 'Dark Skies'

Every Friday night, we're sending cinephiles (and newlyweds) Sarah and Joe Piccirillo to see a film. Afterwards, they answer a few questions about it. Below is their discussion.

Dark Skies

Synopsis: A married couple (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton) struggles to save their family (and sanity) after a series of unexplained events upends their lives.

 

Was it scary?

 

Joe: I’m surprised you choose a horror film. You make me go with you into our basement to do laundry. I didn’t think you’d be up for this.

Sarah: I know! I’m a total scaredy-cat but the only other option was Snitch and I can’t deal with The Rock right now.

Joe: Well said.

Sarah: For me, this was just the right amount of scary. No gore, no ghosts. Just deliciously eerie bits like Keri Russell’s character falling into a trance and banging her head against a glass door. I’m totally addicted to the creepy and the psychological even if I have to watch it through my fingers.

Joe: Yeah, they played a good long game. There weren’t a lot of those “gotcha” moments, which are scary only in that moment. Instead, there was a gradual loss of control for all of the characters, which is the kind of horror that lingers with you long after you leave the theater.

Sarah: Absolutely. Real fear stems from our connection to the characters. That’s kind of an obvious point but it’s so often forgotten in this genre.

 

What Did You Love?

 

Sarah: The suspense. I was giddily on the edge of my seat. Each escalation felt real, and it was refreshing to watch a family react appropriately to bizarre events.

Joe: I agree. I found myself on board with every move made in response to the immediate danger. That never happens in any movie but especially not in a horror film. 

Sarah: Keri Russell was great in this. Honestly, I haven’t paid attention to her since Felicity, but she did an amazing job here.

Joe: Finally a strong woman in a movie. And not the typical movie version of female strength, where she spews one-liners and sexes it up to get her way. She was strong like a dude, like Viggo Mortensen from Eastern Promises. And it helped since her husband was whiny.

 

Cliché meter

 

Sarah: Surprisingly low! It did have the requisite paranormal expert (J.K. Simmons) but he was used sparingly. Surveillance cam sequences were used but they were more effective here than in the usual found-footage retread. And there’s an unnecessary, formulaic twist toward the end that will surprise no one.

Joe: In less capable hands, this movie would be ridiculous. But the filmmakers did such a good job of grounding the far-out plot points in solid storytelling that I became really invested.

 

What Will You Be Thinking About Tomorrow?

 

Joe: The end of the film is truly terrifying. It’s the difference between being chased down a dark alleyway and being told that you have a terminal illness. The first scenario at least gives you a fighting chance; the second one’s implacability only adds to its terror.

Sarah: Jeez, that’s depressing.

Joe: That’s why I liked it.

Sarah: You’re saying it’s like the Final Destination movies. They all know that death is coming for them.

Joe: No, those movies are campy. In this one, they play it so realistically that it really gets inside your head.

Sarah: So much of the movie would still be affecting even without the alien component. We see a strained marriage, a 13-year-old boy pulling away from his family, and the sensitive youngest child who absorbs it all. Without the poltergeist-y tricks and bird showers, the emotional plot is the same as the story of a family with mental health challenges. The neighbors begin to back away, the police don’t want to touch it, and the family becomes more isolated. You can feel the parents’ relief when Simmons tells them, “You’re not alone.”

Joe: It’s Felicity with aliens.

 

Verdict

 

Sarah: I find alien plotlines a total snooze-fest so I was skeptical going in, but this was smart and engrossing. See it.  

Joe: It works on two levels. It’s like Lars and The Real Girl. First, it’s a good movie. But then, when you think about how many missteps it could have made – how really bad it could have been – it seems that much better in the end. Too bad the studio buried it on Oscar weekend.

Sarah and Joe are writers/editors who live in Boston. They met (in a bar) and married within a year. They love to argue about early Woody Allen films and old romantic comedies. They both agree to hate musicals.

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