Starring Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo. Written and directed by Scott Stewart. 14A. 95 min.
There are two possible reasons you might want to see the paranormal thriller Dark Skies. 1. You’re a diehard Keri Russell fan and have faithfully watched everything she’s done since Felicity went off the air. 2. You’re a relative of Dakota Goyo, the Toronto teen actor who played the nascent God of Thunder in Marvel’s Thor. Otherwise, this half-hearted alien-abduction flick hasn’t much to offer. Breathtaking in its unoriginality, it seems to have been written by its director, Scott Stewart, during a weekend spent reading Whitley Strieber’s ufology classic, Communion, and watching reruns of The X-Files.
Russell and Josh Hamilton star as a young married couple with two boys (Goyo, Kadan Rockett) whose idyllic, barbecues-and-swimming pools suburban life is shattered when extraterrestrials start besieging their home. First, the pesky things do mischievous stuff, like stealing all the family photos out of their frames. Then they cause flocks of starlings to go kamikaze and crash en masse into the house. Meanwhile, the youngest son (Rockett) is having nightmares about a malevolent “Sandman” and drawing pictures of what look suspiciously like the spindly grey aliens popularized by Strieber.
Stewart, who directed the FX-heavy fantasies Legion and Priest, is surprisingly restrained here. He aims to create an eerie atmosphere rather than rely on visual tricks and gore, but his attempts to creep us out invariably fail. And this is a movie where you can anticipate every inane line of dialogue. Russell never wavers from wide-eyed earnestness, Hamilton overacts as the stereotypical dad-with-a-short-fuse, and even the usually wry J.K. Simmons is disappointing as an eccentric alien expert. But Goyo, sporting a shaggy Justin Bieber haircut, has a sullen, snub-nosed charm. His scenes of pubescent awkwardness are the film’s most entertaining moments. His relatives will be proud.