DARK SKIES **** USA 2013 97 mins
Financially struggling couple become increasingly freaked when their youngest son starts having too-vivid “nightmares” involving a mysterious “Sandman”. The cops blame peculiar nocturnal disturbances on sleepwalking sprogs, but blackouts, birds hurling themselves at the windows during the day and the barely perceptible presence of something tall and spindly in the kids’ bedroom points to a far more sinister explanation. Scott Stewart, who made the FX-heavy LEGION and PRIEST, opts for a refreshingly subtle approach to this frightening alien-encounter movie, the best mainstream example of its kind since SIGNS. Most impressive is the steady accumulation of low-key but increasingly creepy detail, from the disappearance of all the family photos from their frames to an ordinary child having an inexplicable screaming fit in the park. Only occasionally falling back on only-a-dream jump scares, the movie boldly avoids overt special effects and gore, instead capturing a nervy, insidious tone reminiscent of THE X FILES in its straight-faced, spooky early days. And, for once, they don’t blow the ending.
Review by Steven West