The aliens are coming, and they're attacking white-collar suburbia! Again!
The question that arises regarding Scott Stewart's Dark Skies is whether it deserves to be talked of in terms of being a bleak isolationist parable about how white suburban America is under attack from a creeping plague of outsiders who are delineated solely by the colour of their skin.
Or whether it's a bunch of old haunted house hooey with hovering floodlights, demented (but oh-so-adorable) toddlers who churn out portentous crayon drawings and myriad clues which all point to everything most definitely not being good in the hood.
Dark Skies filches ideas like some crazed idea-filching addict, its story consisting a smash-and-grab itinerary of things that most semi-serious genre fans would have seen in other (not necessarily better) movies. In the days leading up the fireworks of 4th July, the Barrett clan start noticing odd things are happening on the ground floor of their detached mini mansion while they sleep.
Someone broke in and ate all the watermelon. Then they came back and built a gravity-defying expressionist sculpture out of spray tuna and Cheez Whiz (whatever that is.). And remember the thousands of family photos they kept in a busy crescent around the jumbo flatscreen? All gone.
Usher in some scarily half-assed local cops to pin sole blame on the nippers and get it straight that Johnny Law has very much not got the Barretts' back on this one, and we're left with an escalating series of unfortunate events which could go any which way, as long as it's down.
One thing that Stewart's film has going for it is that there are no slavish attempts to explain everything and tie up the loose ends. During the finale there's even a nicely executed out-of-body experience and you're never entirely sure from whose perspective you're seeing this strange vision.
In fact, there's virtually nothing in the film that conforms to a conventional arc: even the supporting cast are one-scene-and-out types who get to say their lines you wave goodbye. It's actually quite a refreshing move, as you don't have to worry about contrivances, last-minute saves and forced second-tier drama.
Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell are the couple at the centre of the mess and whose relationship – understandably – comes under severe strain. It's not helped by him being currently out of work and her working a real estate job with some seriously crummy retro leads.
One very queer juxtaposition comes mid-way through the film when the pair start to canoodle under the blankets after he's finally been given a job. This set up exactly mirrors the after-hours blanket base the two kids like to mess around in and read ghost stories to one another. Again, it's hard to gauge whether Stewart has just thrown that in there for a giggle, or doesn't really know what he's doing.
As for its edgy, right-wing political subtext, maybe it is something to take at face value? There's a vague '70s vibe to the proceedings, cemented by an unnerving non-sequitur ending which wraps things up on a note of chilly ambiguity rather than full closure.
It's the ripe "the invasion has already started, man" dialogue given to JK Simmons' online alien hunter that really makes you think that the film might be operating as a questionable diatribe about how those who guard their houses with big guns and bigger dogs might just be on to something.
Another supernatural attack on the sanctity of suburban America!
Might be a subtle right-wing polemic. Might just be bland X-Files knock-off.
Zero points for originality, but interestingly messy at the same time.