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Dark Skies (Blu-ray / DVD)



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Dark Skies (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons

Directed by Scott Stewart

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Scott Stewart thinks big. Both of his previous features were high concept, effects-driven flicks with fairly large scopes. His first film, Legion, concerned the archangel Michael attempting to protect a special child in the face of an oncoming apocalypse (and having to fight demons and fellow angels to do so). His next film, the manga adaptation Priest, was a post-apocalyptic yarn featuring a faith-driven warrior battling legions of mutated vampires. Sadly, neither film quite worked, mostly due to the thinly written characters and rather simple plots lost within the large worlds the ambitious filmmaker created.

Maybe it’s no surprise then that Dark Skies, Stewart’s new alien-centric thriller, is his most successful turn as a storyteller yet. With its smaller scope and sharp focus centered on the characters rather than the genre trappings, Dark Skies is an engaging tale full of people we come to care about and the numerous frights that occur when those same folks are put into peril. And while many of Dark Skies spacey concepts are quite tried and true (to the point of being rather clichéd), it’s still a worthwhile watch for those who like a bit of sci-fi mixed in with their horror.

Opening with shots of an idyllic suburban neighborhood, Dark Skies quickly introduces us to the Barrett family: father Daniel (Hamilton), mother Lacy (Russell), teenage son Jesse (Goyo), and youngest child Sam (Rockett). Though they outwardly appear to be as wholesome as The Cleavers to anyone who might glimpse them in passing, the Barretts are a family in turmoil. Daniel and Lacy argue constantly over Daniel’s lack of employment and their dwindling cash flow, even as the children can’t help but hear their spirited rows each night. Meanwhile, Jesse has taken up with the wrong crowd, hanging out with an older boy who has already introduced the young lad to pot and pornography.

But perhaps little Sam has it the worst. Each night he is visited by something he calls “the Sandman”, an entity who delights in after-hours pranks which begin harmlessly enough (a disturbed refrigerator, an impressive rearranging of household objects, stolen photographs). Eventually, though, the nightly visits become far more sinister, with the insidious Sandman wreaking all sorts of paranormal activity upon the Barretts. Eventually the family comes to believe that they may be the target of forces somewhat…extraterrestrial in nature, as they seek out advice from a self-proclaimed expert on dodgy ETs (Simmons, in a brief but effective role). But even as they become ever more aware of their situation, the family is led inexorably toward the film’s inescapable and heartbreaking conclusion.

Director Stewart does well with his material here (he scripted also), crafting a spooky and surprisingly scary flick even while keeping his focus on the characters populating the tale as they struggle with events they couldn’t hope to understand. And as the family, all four leading actors do a fine job of carrying the film. Russell is solid as the caring but increasingly exasperated Lacy, while Hamilton plays Daniel with a mix of hope and weariness. Both Goyo and Rockett are very good child actors, giving believable performances throughout, even as the hysteria mounts for each. Credit must also go to Director of Photography David Boyd, whose inky, shadow-laden work cloaks the entire film in dread, while composer Joseph Bishara’s music perfectly underscores the family’s plight and the horror that envelops them.

However, for all the movie does well, it’s impossible not to compare this film to others that have preceded it. One cannot help but be reminded of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, “The X-Files”, or any number of other alien-themed movies or television shows which have come before while viewing Dark Skies. As a result, most of the film’s plot points and set pieces feel borrowed, creating a sense of déjà vu throughout. Still, credit where credit is due; Stewart has created a solid little film here. Here’s hoping this detour into smaller scale filmmaking and character-driven storytelling serves him well if/when he returns to bigger budgeted genre pics.

Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Blu-ray provides an impressive presentation of the film, with a gorgeous and sharp image and a strong DTS-HD 5.1 audio track that’ll have you looking over your shoulder for any grey little bastards that might be flitting around your living room. The bonus features section is a little light on extras, unfortunately. There is a feature commentary with Stewart, producers Jason Blum and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, and editor Peter Gvozdas. In addition, there is a ten-minute set of alternate and deleted scenes. These are mostly throwaways, as one can understand why the footage was cut or altered. However, an alternate ending does show how the film might’ve ended on a far more downbeat note. Overall, a decent package for a decent film.

If you’re the type of viewer who digs sci-fi/horror hybrids, especially those more concerned with the humans than the tech, then Dark Skies is likely right up your alley. All others, go ahead and be sure to give this little chiller a shot, if only by giving it a rental. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it – this writer certainly was.

Special Features

  • Feature commentary with Writer/Director Scott Stewart, Producer Jason Blum, Executive Producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Editor Peter Gvozdas
  • Alternate and deleted scenes


    3 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 out of 5

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    Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View



    Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

    Directed by Marcel Sarmiento

    Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

    17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

    What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

    • Film


    Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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    IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor



    Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

    On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

    The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

    While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

    What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

    While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

    • Alive in New Light


    IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

    User Rating 5 (2 votes)
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    The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell



    Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

    Directed by John Law

    I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

    The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

    The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

    • Film


    The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

    User Rating 0 (0 votes)
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