The Sky Has Fallen (2009)

skyhasfallenStarring Carey MacLaren, Laurel Kemper, Cory Knisely, Grant Anstine, Kevin Keppy, Nathan Shelton, Mickey Stone

Directed by Doug Roos

Expectations: None.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
onehalfstar


I’m sure many visitors to Silver Emulsion have wondered why I sometimes watch films so far outside the mainstream cinema experience. My answer is always that I desire to see something unique and raw that would never make it into a big-budget production, and The Sky Has Fallen is a great example of this. Did I enjoy the film? Not really, but I’m not sorry I watched it. I doubt I will forget it anytime soon actually; it’s such a strange, unique movie that I kept watching to see if I could uncover what I thought might be happening in the story. The Sky Has Fallen is ultimately ambiguous about the origins of the creatures it contains (or I missed something 🙂 ), and that’s for the best. Now I can theorize and wonder, and the hooded figures (that kind of resembled the angels in the Diablo series of video games) will forever remain mysterious.

The Sky Has Fallen is essentially a zombie film, with a pair of characters doing their best to survive in the forest while the walking dead assault them. It’s a basic premise we’re all familiar with by this point. But flashes of bloody claw-like, knife hands quickly inform us that this is not a traditional zombie world. These zombies are kind of like experiments gone wrong, with mutated faces and metal scraps jammed into their severed limbs. Everything is achieved through physical FX work, too, so it all looks nicely ooey and gooey.

skyhasfallen_2Speaking of the gore, there’s a lot of it. My favorite bits were mid-fight when director Doug Roos would cut to a shot of tons of blood splashing against a tree, or the grassy ground, or even our lead’s face. It’s the kind of over-the-top touch that I can really respect. The zombie’s facial prosthetics are also well done, creating lots of unique zombies that stand out from one another (and anything else you’ve seen). The one thing that’s kind of weird about the amount of gore is that it completely goes against the tone of the film. The Sky Has Fallen is a very grim and humorless film, feeling closer to something that would play an arthouse than a grindhouse, so with all the crazy gore the film ends up as something of an “arthouse gorefest.” There can’t be too many of those out there, so kudos for being unique! It didn’t really work for me — it’s way too serious for its own good — but I have to respect this mashing of cinematic cultures.

Unfortunately, my issues didn’t end with the tone. The editing is incredibly choppy without much of a rhythm to it. Part of the editing issue is that almost every shot is a close-up, so the cuts draw attention to themselves instead of building any kind of tension or sense of action. During the scenes with FX work I can understand that the effects need to be framed a certain way to make them look their best, but in dialogue scenes there’s just no need for that. Oftentimes it felt like the two lead actors were being shot on separate days, because even though they spend the whole movie together there aren’t a lot of shots with both of them present.

skyhasfallen_3The depth of field is also really short on most of the shots, so a good majority of the image is out of focus (on purpose). This is common in many films, but in something as stacked with close-ups as The Sky Has Fallen is, it’s isolating and fairly disorienting. The worst instances of this are when some kind of fish-eyed filter is used to unfocus the edges of the image around whatever we’re supposed to be looking at (Click on the image to the right to see what I’m talking about). I’m sure this was a deliberate artistic choice, and I do have to admit that it gives the film a surreal quality that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. But while it definitely creates an atmosphere, it is at the cost of the viewer’s immersion in the film.

But I think my problems with the film also illustrate one of its strengths: it’s really professionally produced for an amateur film. Just the fact that I can talk about things like depth of field shows that a lot of care and preparation went into the production of The Sky Has Fallen, and the filmmakers have my respect for just getting out there and doing it. I’ve made a couple of short films myself and I know how hard it is to make something that doesn’t just look like a bunch of friends got together in the backyard. The Sky Has Fallen didn’t do much for me, but it’s impressive for what it is and everyone involved should be proud of their work.

If you want to check it out for yourself, the film is available here!

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of the film.

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