“As the Barret family’s peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them.” — IMDb
I freakin’ love a good alien encounter movie and this one delivered. It was produced by Jason Blum, who was also behind Insidious, Paranormal Activity, and many others, and I think it does a good job at keeping up consistent pacing (I was never bored throughout the whole movie) and delivering good scares and creepy moments without ever getting too cheesy.
“Two possibilities exist… Either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” – Arthur C. Clarke
It is very much the classic story of a family trying to live the American dream — but struggling — who are consumed with a horrifying experience. I really loved each of their personalities — maybe the dad, played by Josh Hamilton, least of all, but mostly because he embodied a bit too much of a combination of “tough dad” (going to beat up the older son’s friend) and “disbeliever” (thinking his wife is batshit crazy for suggesting the weird encounters may be alien in nature). But I thought Lacy, played by Keri Russell, was fantastic (she was apparently the first and only choice for the lead character, understandably), and I really loved the sibling relationship between the brothers (played by Dakota Goyo and Kadan Rockett).
There were two, either intentional or accidental, references to Poltergeist, which I appreciated, even though we’ve got ghosts vs aliens, but still… two unwelcome, unexpected guests. There was a TV static scene that reminded me very much of the “Star-Spangled Banner” static scene from Poltergeist (when Carol Anne first says “they’re here”), as well as the very first odd finding of the kitchen items being stacked up (reminiscent of a similar scene in Poltergeist when the mom turns around to find the chairs all stacked oddly on the table and the drawers pulled out, cabinets open, etc). Again, maybe not intentional, but definitely reminded me immediately.
Ultimately, pretty much any movie where a little kid is seeing/understanding what’s going on before the adults is going to freak me out. I can’t imagine being a parent and hearing some of those creepy things from your kid, especially considering how likely it seems that some children can see and communicate with ghosts, spirits, and other paranormal entities. After Sam initially told Lacy about the “Sand Man” and told her “he did it himself before he came to my room”… SHUDDER.
Really, this movie impressed me with the sheer amount of chills and jump scares it delivered. The first time the intruder alarm goes off and Daniel gets a call from the security company and they tell him ALL of the entry points were breached at the same time… NOPE. The photos going missing from their frames, the birds all crashing into the house, Lacy’s breakdown at the house showing, Daniel’s breakdown in the backyard… all creepy as hell. And when Lacy goes into Sam’s room and sees the Gray standing over him… I jumped out of my freaking skin. My husband was asleep next to me and I’m surprised he didn’t hear me yell “NO THANK YOU”.
You just start to feel the amount of helplessness they must be experiencing — between the strange encounters escalating, knowing they aren’t in control of their own bodies, having CPS alerted to their “bad parenting”, disapproving and judging neighbors, etc — when they visit with Edwin Pollard (played by J.K. Simmons), an expert on The Grays, who essentially tells them they’re fucked, one of them is about to be taken, and they need to fight like hell to stop it.
“People think of aliens as these beings invading our planet in some great cataclysm, destroying monuments, stealing our natural resources. But it’s not like that at all. The invasion already happened.”
They did lose me a bit at this point. I mean, these aliens are clearly capable of doing things beyond our comprehension — they can enter your home without setting off the alarm, they can control your mind, they are using you as lab rats to observe from a great distance — what makes you think a boarded up window and a shotgun is going to stop them? But I did like the “twist” at the ending (though I could have told you it’d be Jesse as soon as he had his experience in the woods), and the last scene — with Jesse trying to communicate with Sam via Walkie Talkie — gave me SERIOUS chills. Super well done movie!