Welcome to Crappy Horror Movie Week. Because I randomly didn’t post anything for half a month, this week I’ll be reviewing Dark Skies, the first Last Exorcism and the last Last Exorcism. Maybe. I haven’t seen the first Last one yet, so it depends on if I can, you know, muster the courage. Just kidding, it depends on if I can handle subjecting myself to its crappiness.
Today is Dark Skies, AKA that overlooked horror movie you never heard of, AKA a movie released in February. When I went to see it I was under the impression I was attending opening night but the movie was actually in theaters for like two weeks already, but I can assure you it actually is a thing.
I’m going to get it off my chest now: Dark Skies was pretty good. It was so much more enticing than Sinister and House at the End of the Street and Safe Haven and any other horror movies I’ve seen recently. Still, it was about as basic a horror movie as any of those were. An unjustifiably large portion of horror movies follows the same tired formula, a formula as omnipresent and haunting as the monsters in these movies. Typical family living in a haunted house in a small friendly neighborhood: check. At least two kids, with the youngest being haunted: check. Creepy inexplicable things happening in the house at night: check. Seeking help from a ‘professional’ exorcist or shaman or what have you, but it backfires horribly: check.
Dark Skies is not groundbreaking. However, if Hollywood insists on churning out endless amounts of horror movies following this exhausted formula, at least Dark Skies is a worthy installment.
The film is about the sky, typically at night, and even includes some dimly lit clouds and a creepy full moon. It also features a subplot where the annoyingly average Barrett family suffers from nightly harassments of some unseen force. The parents, Lacy and Daniel (Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton), struggle to hold down jobs and make sure their sons Jesse and Sam (Dakota Goyo and Kadan Rockett) don’t get kidnapped by aliens.
A series of horrifying oddities begins in the house. The kitchen pantry develops a mind of its own, family pictures vanish from their frames in bulk, and hundreds of birds dive-bomb the house like it’s The Birds up in this joint. Soon, Lacy must summon her search engine term-building skills to Google ‘mass bird death’ and get to the bottom of the mystery.
It’s a scary film. My water bottle became a squeeze toy I clenched throughout the majority of the movie to help get me through the scarier sequences. The first serious jump scare is the best in my recent horror film memory. Unfortunately the first half was scarier than the second, when it should have been the other way around. The movie was also pretty funny, and not in the laugh-at-how-bad-it-is humor I so fiendishly delight in. Horror films usually don’t have the ~best~ screenwriting in town, but screenwriter Scott Stewart did an admirable job here. Well, besides the rather unimaginative storyline.
Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell saved the film from being mundane entertainment. The two kids were good too. (No, the little boy is not the kid from Looper. Believe me, I checked. Yes, I’m disappointed too. I know.)
Now for the low point of this review: I need to talk about something that shook me on a personal level. One of the film’s minor scares comes from the sudden high-decibel blare of the iPhone’s cute signature alarm tone. The default one that sounds like a xylophone. I believe it goes by the name Marimba. That scare opened my eyes to how hyper-attuned my mind is to that tone. Marimba has interrupted my peaceful slumber so many times that my subconscious must have developed a deep loathing of it somewhere along the line. There’s no other explanation as to why it was one of two-ish times the movie made me jump out of my seat in fear. Is anyone else haunted by Marimba? No? Told you it was the low point.
Dark Skies seems like to type of movie that’ll end up on Netflix in a few months, so I’d suggest checking it out there. Or maybe see it in theaters instead of The Last Exorcism Part II if you really need to get into some February horror.