Dark Skies

Dark Skies begins with a quote by Arthur C. Clarke: “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe, or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

It’s always bugged me that most of those who buy the ancient astronaut hypothesis that assigns all architectural advancements and scientific breakthroughs throughout history to space visitors leave man and God out of the equation. They are unwilling to acknowledge that God created the world yet they’re more than willing to believe that lizardmen stopped by for a visit!

It’s always fun to ask, “So where’d the primordial ooze come from?”

Dark Skies takes place over the Fourth of July weekend as strange phenomena occur on a quiet neighborhood street to an average family of four. Their youngest starts having nightmares about someone called “The Sandman” who steals kids’ eyes. Poltergeist activity leads to sleepwalking and ultimately missing hours.

It’s a classic ufology scenario reported by suspected abductees.

Using familiar alien mythology, Dark Skies acclimates us to the puzzling controversies that hinder research. Happening on the Fourth recalls Independence Day. The kid says fireworks look like ice cream, which is taken from Close Encounters. Hinges of a door unscrew as in Signs. Bedside abductions were the focus in Communion. Head tilted back with the mouth agape is exactly how Henry Thomas was abducted in Fire in the Sky. And after experiencing moved objects and missing photos, cameras are installed as in Paranormal Activity to catch any activity while the family sleeps.

Josh Hamilton as the patriarch could double for David Duchovny, so after insurmountable experiences, he and the mom (Keri Russell) seek out a local abduction expert, Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons), who immediately fills them, and the audience, in on saucer history, describing archetypes in abductee cases that date back to the Betty and Barney Hill case in ’61. It’s basic Flying Saucer 101 with a slight detour. Instead of their encounter paving the way for an invasion, as is the usual case, Pollard explains, “We’re not being invaded – that occurred after we split the atom. These are the results of our already having been invaded!”

I’ve never heard that suggested in any other movie. Furthermore, there aren’t any shots of blinking lights in the night sky nor do we get retro-hypnotic suggestions about being taken. The first thirty minutes plays like a sequel to Amityville Horror. If anything, the movie is wrapped in ufology but its subtext imagines our fear of separation.

While I’m hesitant to ascribe intention, there is this generational analysis concerning adolescent behavior that seems almost alien to his parents. Jesse (Dakota Goyo) is thirteen, no longer wants to be treated as a kid, imitates the behavioral guidelines dictated from watching porn as if he was from outer space and doesn’t understand social skills here on earth. The tagline for the movie is “once you’re chosen, you belong to them.” Jesse’s dad keeps advising him to choose better friends. Pollard starts out by telling the parents, “I no longer fight them, “ but is he speaking about aliens or teenagers?

Teenagers are always worried about public perception, about not fitting in. They fear being left out. Alien encounters are inclusive – you get taken whether your hair is short or grey, Gooble, gobble, one of us!

In Dark Skies, there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two kids. One gets hunted by a friend and shot with paintballs. The other is reluctant to go swimming because he shows signs of abuse due to multiple abrasions. Their parents bicker, causing both boys to fear that one will leave. Once more, that feeling of separation and abandonment.

As a teenager, I recall being told that I wasn’t normal. And thinking back, I get it. I read books rather than burned them. I didn’t fit in with the beer drinkers and hell-raisers. I was left out when others looked at carburetors after choir practice.

I hear music nobody else bothers with, and see the fringe as uncomfortable. In fact, I’d just as soon take my chances with aliens.