Lost in Time

Dark Skies: written and directed by Scott Stewart; starring Keri Russell (Lacy Barrett), Dakota Goyo (Jesse Barrett), J.K. Simmons (Edwin Pollard), Josh Hamilton (Daniel Barrett) and Kadan Rockett (Sam Barrett) (2013): It’s as if someone beamed this movie in from 1992, before The X-Files ever hit the airwaves. The alien-abduction storyline is right out of The X-Files, as is much of the UFO mythology mined by the movie (which is to say, they mine the same resources — The X-Files didn’t invent many of the tropes it used). Even the movie’s title is shared by an X-Files knock-off TV series of the mid-1990’s devoted to UFO conspiracies.

It’s not a bad movie. It’s not really a good movie. Maybe if a viewer had somehow remained completely unaware of the UFO abduction sub-genre, it would be better. I don’t know. Along the way, writer-director Scott Stewart shovels references and homages to other movies, from E.T. to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Poltergeist, into the mix. And those are just the Spielberg moments.

A suburban family under financial pressure because of the architect-father’s inability to get work and the real-estate-agent mother’s inability to sell a house starts experiencing spooky things at home. Their youngest son reports talking to a mysterious being he calls the Sandman. In an homage to Poltergeist, someone or something does some physics-challenging furniture rearrangement at night. Nose bleeds, black-outs, and lost time start to occur. Somebody raids the refrigerator. Yes, aliens have arrived, doing those things aliens have been doing since the 1950’s. Can this suburban family defend itself against invasive aliens with magical technology?

J.K. Simmons is pretty much wasted in the role of Basil Exposition, while the child actors are competent and the actors playing the parents, Felicity‘s Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton, are also fine. The movie is competently staged and shot. Meanwhile, the aliens acquire a bewildering array of powers by the end of the film — they’re pretty much the Swiss Army Knife of monsters. Only the ending surprises in any way. But hey, at least it’s not a found-footage film! Lightly recommended.

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