A Mish-Mash of Cliche’s

“Dark Skies” was the title of a short-lived NBC series during the 1996-97 television season. It was a smartly designed, intriguing and timely show, which the network cancelled, ostensibly for low ratings. But constant pre-emptions virtually guaranteed the show’s demise, which may well have been the way NBC wanted it.

“Dark Skies” combined fact and fiction, blending elements like the 1947 Roswell UFO incident and the Kennedy assassination to come up with a re-interpretation of contemporary history. It was too controversial for many, but made for excellent drama.

Currently, there’s a film playing with the same name, but it lacks originality and drama, and will probably be a huge disappointment to fans of the TV series.

Both the series and the film feature aliens, but that’s where the similarities end.

Dark Skies, the film, tells the story of Lacy and Daniel Barrett, a suburban couple with young sons, Jesse and Sam.

She’s a real estate agent, and we don’t get a clear picture of what Daniel does, except that he can’t find a job in his chosen field, and has back mortgage payments hounding him.

Their youngest child begins acting strangely, wandering out into the street inexplicably at night, going into semi-catatonic states and mumbling about weird dreams featuring an entity he calls the Sandman.

One night, the home burglar alarm is triggered and a litany of horror film clichés like flickering lights, photos falling off walls and, of course, an ominous sound-track to match, are invoked.

Perturbed about the weirdness, and predictably arguing about what it all means, the couple ends up seeing a self-styled expert on paranormal phenomena, whose cluttered home is bedecked with clippings of mysterious kidnappings and abductions.

After interrogating the couple, he confirms that the mysterious rashes behind each of their ears are telltale signs of alien intervention. Here he trots out those long-time staples of UFO lore, implants and the Greys.

The Greys are tall, spindly humanoids that often feature in UFO abduction accounts. Here they are paraded as the bogeyman, in an increasingly boring and mundane horror film narrative.

Daniel boards-up the windows to the house, and arms himself with a shotgun to fend off the impending home invasion of the Greys.

Things get sillier and sillier, and when one of their sons finally is abducted, we’re almost glad that something happened in this dreary mish-mash of a movie.

Dark Skies doesn’t do a very good job of being either a science-fiction piece or a horror thriller, and the time spent waiting for it to make up its mind is largely time wasted.

Dark Skies plays at the Qwanlin Cinema at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., and is rated 14A.

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