The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.

Dark SkiesTitle: Dark Skies (2013)
Director: Scott Stewart
Runtime: 97 minutes

The four lead characters – the Barret family – really make Dark Skies what it is. Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton are excellent as the mom and dad duo, and handle every scene with the perfect amount of weight required for the viewer to buy into what is happening. Frankly, these two are why I loved Dark Skies as much as I did. They make this unbelievable situation seem realistic, which is pretty incredible. The two young boys are good, but they fortunately play second fiddle to the mom and dad, which is unusual in a script like this, but greatly appreciated because of how well Russell and Hamilton do. J.K. Simmons has a bit role as well, only in it for two scenes, but he does a stellar job as the expert that is called on for help. I generally like Simmons’ work, but he was especially solid in his role here, which is quite different from what I’ve seen him do in the past.

Story & Script
It’s strange to find this script believable, but I’d say that it is one of the most believable scripts I’ve seen of its kind. The story of the Barret family is fascinating because it takes a long while to finally figure out what type of film we’re really watching. I loved this about it, and it had me engaged the entire time. I genuinely liked this family, and I cared about what would happen to them. I admire the script for never taking the easy way out, especially at the end. This is an excellent story, and I’m surprised this didn’t get more attention when it was released. There’s a dinner scene toward the finale that shows the family talking about an old memory with each child, and a german shepherd barking in the background. The family is trying to find comfort right before the proverbial storm, and it reminded me so much of a scene from one of my favorite films of all time (extra credit points to anyone who can name the film I’m talking about). I just loved this story, and was shocked that this PG-13 film was able to provide as much tension as it did.

I had no idea who directed this movie when I was watching it, and color me shocked to find out that this is a Scott Stewart film. Stewart is the director of one my least favorite films I’ve ever seen, Legion. With that script, Stewart jams religious and political messages down the throat of the viewer, and it made me sick to sit through. I actively avoided Priest, expecting more of the same. I’m really happy that I didn’t realize that Stewart directed this before I watched it because I’m pretty certain I would have skipped this one as well. Moving away from his religious themes proves to be an excellent choice as Dark Skies is an infinitely better film than most in its genre, and light-years better than Legion. Stewart’s choices create a lot of tension, and there were moments that I was genuinely frightened while watching Dark Skies.

The fear of the unknown is one reason why I was so effected by this film. What the hell type of film am I watching? That’s the question that kept creeping into my mind. Because I wasn’t sure, anything was possible. Is this a haunted house film? An alien invasion movie? A possession film? What is it? This uncertainty kept me on my toes, and I was genuinely sucked in to the story of this family. That said, I highly recommend going in to this with as little knowledge as possible.

Though it won’t by anytime soon, I would definitely watch Dark Skies again in the future. It has a lot of interesting things going on, but once you understand what type of film this is, it may have an effect on your viewing experience.

The Verdict
Dark Skies is a great horror/sci-fi/thriller hybrid that was overlooked when it was released theatrically. It’s now available on Netflix Instant Queue, and I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already. This is one that seems to get a lot more recommendations now that it is available on home video than it did when it was in theatres, so I hope it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and that we may see a sequel of some sort in the future.