The people behind Dark Skies, which opens in wide release on Friday, have kept the movie’s true premise hidden. If you dig around the official site and watch the trailer multiple times, you might conclude that it’s a straightforward horror thriller: Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play a couple enjoying an idyllic life in the suburbs until strange things begin happening.
Those “strange things” are unexplainable: disturbing marks appear on their young son’s body; three flocks of migrating birds slam into their home; Ms. Russell stares out a sliding glass door before slamming her head against it. In the trailer, a neighbor cries out, “There’s something wrong with you people!” and by that point, we’re pretty much convinced the family is under attack by a supernatural force of some kind.
But then the trailer throws a curve; near the end, a mysterious creature is revealed in the background, and it looks suspiciously like an alien being, which casts the whole thing into a different light.
The trailer and other marketing material use the tag line: “Once you’ve been chosen, you belong to them.” And if you are inclined to visit the viral marketing site, which requires that you login with Facebook, there are all kinds of clues that might lead you to conclude that Dark Skies is not, actually, a straightforward horror thriller, but a genre hybrid with science fiction elements involving aliens possibly invading -- or already inhabitating? -- the Earth.
That’s pure conjecture, but consider that Scott Stewart, who wrote and directed, is the same man who made Legion and Priest, two movies that don’t have the best critical reputations, yet are wild melanges of horror, science fiction, supernatural and religious elements. Both movies careen all over the place and, frankly, are kind of nutso, but in a good way.
Also consider: the title! Producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions are the people behind the creepy horror flicks Insidious and Sinister, which start with similar premises, but titling the movie Dark Skies implies that something else is coming from above -- maybe from another solar system -- beyond any supernatural appearance.
Maybe Dark Skies has a killer twist early enough in the movie that shouldn't be revealed in advance, or is a wonderfully crazy and unexpected mixture of genres. Even though it hasn't been screened in advance for (most if not all) critics, it's the type of lower-budgeted genre picture that's basically criticproof, which means the director may have also been free to really run wild. It’s Stewart’s third picture, too, which is often when a director hits his stride.
For these reasons, and possibly against our better judgment, we’re excited to see it, and we hope it lives up to our (moderate, really!) expectations, proving to be a minor gem.