A double feature for letter D seems to be so fitting! Maybe not but coincidentally, right before I started this segment I had seen this Irish drama I’ll be looking at briefly called Dollhouse. Adding on to my original choice of Dark Skies, we’re in for a little contrast of movies here where the only two things in common are that they are movies starting with D and that the director is also the writer.
Let’s check them out!
Director/writer: Kirsten Sheridan
Cast: Seana Kerslake, Johnny Ward, Kate Stanley Brennan, Shane Curry, Ciaran McCabe, Jack Reynor
A group of street teens from Dublin’s inner city break into a house in an upper class suburb. The break-in quickly moves into a night of frenzy, scandal and consequence.-IMDB
I’m not going to spend too much time on this one. Dollhouse has a good idea. It does. It pulls it together with a relatively better ending. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself…again. Dollhouse is empty. Its a lot of teens just messing around in this fancy house. They break the stuff, trash the kitchen, mess around inside and outside. Then they sit around and play games. Eventually you have a reveal fairly soon about what this is all about because the neighbor’s son drops by to see what is going on with the noise and whatnot. Then there’s more random talking, trashy dialogue and things kind of go full on crazy once they get high and/or drunk. There is some meaning behind how certain people have better friendship than others and how there’s something hidden nagging at us the whole way.
Although the whole beginning part really doesn’t feel like much the ending does have a reveal that I didn’t see coming. Its not enough to make me say that its a good movie and it still feels pretty meaningless. I’m kind of indifferent. I know its trying to send a message, kind of a coming of age, breaking free and finding out what’s important, maybe. It is a little sad because at various points it feels like the teens here each have an underlying personality besides their crazy self with their friends and it wants to get deeper into that but then it never fully commits to building on the characters enough for me to care.
Dollhouse is an empty Irish teen drama who doesn’t build enough of its characters but delivers a good final act which unfortunately still doesn’t help the movie feel more meaningful than it probably was intended to.
Dark Skies (2013)
Director & Writer: Scott Stewart
Cast: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, L.J. Benet, J.K. Simmons
As the Barret family’s peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them.-IMDB
Sci-fi horror featuring alien invasion sort of angles have been tough for me. I mean, I love the Alien series. But, thinking about it now, I haven’t been a fan of anything specific. The first comes to mind is Signs and I didn’t enjoy that one much. Let’s just say that I was a little nervous going into Dark Skies. I didn’t know what the story was about but all I knew was that there are aliens and they are invading this family. That’s it. But sometimes, its best to go in blind. Dark Skies had some super creepy screenshots on Netflix and it had me wondering whether I’d be able to handle it. As it turns out, Dark Skies is a pretty effective horror featuring alien invasion sort of plotline. I don’t want to ruin the movie so I’m going to keep this as spoiler free as possible.
Dark Skies has an amazing atmosphere. Its set up effectively to build tension and give you the proper creepy scares. From the first moment that strange things happen, it already started freaking me out a little. Then as the plot escalades and we learn more about what is going on, it was just downright scary. There was one part that was a little weird in the effects department but I quickly overlooked that as the story took an even crazier turn in events. Although, I have to admit that the twist they put, I had my suspicions already. Still, it was pretty nice that a movie was able to pull it off in such a clever way.
Another thing that makes Dark Skies effective is that they focus around a family and particularly kids. Kids in any horror just make things creepier. When they are pulled into the equation, it just makes it more personal somehow. In this one, there were two brothers in this family, the Barrets. The kids were overall pretty great in this. They did their roles really well.
As for the parents, played by Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton, there isn’t much to say. I personally like Keri Russell a lot. Its the first time I’ve seen her do horror so I wondered how it would turn out. As the movie started getting tense, I started remembering that Keri Russell’s scary face is also being nervous and tense but it worked out great here and I enjoyed it a lot. Her mom character really set the story in motion many times and there’s that one seen which made me hold my breath a little. Josh Hamilton on the other hand, played the skeptical parent and I think his character was meant to be a little frustrating to watch because he wouldn’t see what the mom was seeing. However, the contrast in itself is what makes these two characters paired up well.
I guess the surprise here is the little part that J.K. Simmons has in this one but its exactly what needs to be. He is the alien expert and he exists to tell us his theories. As always, as small a role as it is, it still had its purpose and it worked out great.
However, as enjoyable as Dark Skies is, it doesn’t come with no flaws. The main one being in some of the choices these characters make. At times, you question their logic. In the midst of everything that was going on, it sometimes felt that they forgot they were trapped in this weird situation with random things happening or that their children or themselves were in danger. It seemed a little awkward.
Dark Skies is an effective alien sci-fi horror that works on many levels. I had some issues with effects and some issues with the logic of certain actions executed by the characters. However, it does a fine job at building tension and the story itself has a lot of substance. If anything, it built quite a bit of fear in me that I kept the lights on that night.
Have you seen Dollhouse and/or Dark Skies? What did you think of them? Are there any other memorable sci-fi/horror/alien invasion movies I should check out?
Any guesses on the selection for E? Think Bollywood! 😉
(I thought about changing it but I’m committing to my original choice)