When I was a kid growing up in suburbia, I was terrified of being abducted by aliens. So I had a mantra I would repeat to myself every night: Why of all the houses in all the neighborhoods in all the cities in all the states in all the countries on all the planets in all the solar systems would aliens come to abduct me, as opposed to someone else? Dark Skies actually posits a solid explanation: aliens are dicks.
Hear me out. Keri Russell, her bland husband, her normal 13-year-old son and her innately super-creepy 6-year-old son live in a normal house in normal suburbs. Like a lot of people, they're having money problems; Bland Husband lost his job, while Keri Russell is a realtor, so you know how that's going (poorly). Older Son just wants to touch a girl's boob. Younger son… well, he just wants to let his creep flag fly, or whatever.
About the last thing they need is for a group of aliens to cross unimaginable distances through space for the sole purpose of messing with their lives, but alas, that's what happens. It begins with mild pranking — food gets tossed about the place, all their photos are stolen from their frames, their burglar alarm gets set off in eight places simultaneously. Then the aliens ramp it up. They cause three separate flocks of birds to directly fly into their house, covering it would dots of bird blood. They make each family member black out for hours at a time. They brand the kids — like, sear marks into their bodies — seemingly only to get Keri Russell and Bland Husband in trouble with Child Protective Services.
What's the point of all this? Well, once things get awful enough that Keri Russell finally realizes that these are signs of an alien visitation, she visits a noted expert played by the vastly overqualified J.K. Simmons, who explains that these aliens are experimenting on humans, and have done it hundreds of times to hundreds of families for God knows how long. As for the purpose of these extraterrestrial Punk'd reenactments, Simmons explains that we're merely the subjects, and we don't understand their purpose just like rats don't understand when human scientists give them brain cancer. Of course, we happen to know these experiments are to help cure brain cancer in humans… which I think means the aliens all have incredibly shitty home lives and fucking with humans is the only way they know how to fix them.
Overall, Dark Skies contains more snores than scares. The aliens' plan is too banal in the beginning to be scary, and then it's too mean to be spooky. Dark Skies may –- may have a few jumps in it, but no real scares, and definitely nothing you haven't already seen in pretty much any other alien horror flick. It doesn't help that the aliens themselves are gray, shadowy blobs –- not exactly the most intimidating of extraterrestrials, even if they did have a decent amount of screentime, which they don't.
What makes Dark Skies unique is its focus on one family, and its turmoils beyond aliens as Russell and Husband have to get past their other marital woes to keep the aliens from eventually abducting one of their children. But while the movie starts by showcasing the problems that already threaten the family from within, instead of using the aliens to exacerbate and examine these issues, Dark Skies just slowly deflates into a by-the-numbers horror flick you'd be better off skipping in theaters and on home video. As a viewer, I left the theater bored and somewhat annoyed. If I were an alien, though, I'd have been downright offended.