Release date: May 28, 2012
The two disc set consists of a Blu-ray BD 50 dual layer disc, a DVD and digital copy, and an UltraViolet digital copy in a slipcover with original pressing. The slipcover art is a still shot of a seemingly possessed child gazing skyward with arched back, open eyes, and open mouth against a backdrop of cloudy, dark skies. The film’s title is written in red and underlined with a line of fire.
The Barrett family consisting of father Daniel (Josh Hamilton), mother Lucy (Keri Russell), and sons Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett) seem to be a normal nuclear suburban family struggling with unemployment (Daniel) and budding adolescence (Jesse). They make the best of their situation until they notice small strange occurrences around their home: photos disappear from their frames, someone spills food from the refrigerator, items appear stacked in a way no Earthly human could have done. When their youngest son, Sam, begins to have out-of-body experiences and the local authorities either do not believe them or cannot offer any explanation or help, they turn to an expert in the paranormal. It is then they learn they have been targeted by aliens for a close encounter that may not be friendly in nature.
Starz/Anchor Bay presents the Dark Skies Blu-ray in 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encode with a standard 2.40:1 aspect ratio. (The original theatrical release was 2:39:1.) As the film lays the groundwork for the Barretts as just another typical suburban family, we see many daytime scenes with full lighting and a full spectrum of color. The time setting is just prior to Independence Day and the many reds, whites, and blues of the American flags in the neighborhood simply pop off the screen. Likewise, the blue of a house, the white of the sidewalks, the green of the trees and lawns are crisp and well-defined. The nighttime scenes from which the title derives are equally detailed with rich, deep blacks, warm flesh-tones, and detailed shadows and clouds. There is very slight banding in a few places, but this is a high-quality transfer.
The lossless DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack for Dark Skies begins with low tones meant to instill a sense of foreboding in the audience. The foreshadowing is short-lived as the track quickly shifts to the idyllic sounds of surburbia. Dialogue is crisp in the middle ranges and ambient sounds come through clearly. Other than a piercing alarm mid-movie, the speakers do not get much of a workout until the end of the film. As the terror ratchets to its highest levels, the bass booms and pulses to tingle the spine and raise the gooseflesh.
Audio Commentary: Writer/Director Scott Charles Stewart, Executive Producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Producer Jason Blum, and Editor Peter Gvozdas offer insightful commentary on the character development, development of the direction from a “real video footage” focus to a more traditional cinematic approach, the writing process, sound effects, and other technical details.
Alternate and Deleted Scenes (HD, 14:22): First Tone, Second Tone, Sammy Outside with Neighbors, Alarm Tech No. 2, Daniel in the Backyard with Neighbors, Daniel Takes a Walk, Lucy’s Brand, Daniel Yells at Neighbor, and Alternate Ending. Commentary from Steward and Gvozdas can be turned on or off.
Dark Skies is a refreshing and entertaining journey through close encounters of the terrifying kind. It has been compared to Paranormal and Poltergeist with its perfectly-normal-family-meets-abnormal forces formula. The film is most like Poltergeist due to the mutual focus on the youngest family member and the slow, but steady build of palpable paranoia and fear towards the absolutely unthinkable. The cast delivers solid, believable performances as the “every family,” providing the audience with a real sense of unease that this very thing could happen to them, too. The identification with the characters as well as the widespread fear of the unknown makes this one of the better entries into the alien abduction genre.