Screener-Review: The Sky Has Fallen

The Sky Has FallenThe Sky Has Fallen
USA 2009
Written by Doug Roos
Directed by Doug Roos
Watched on 30.06.2015

“The Sky Has Fallen” takes various well-known concepts, ideas and tropes, gives them a good shake, and out comes a very recommendable indie-horror-flick that feels quite fresh and original – even though all those elements don’t always add up to a coherent whole. I have to say, given the micro-budget-origins of this movie, I was really surprised of how well it holds up to other horror flicks. Of course the low budget is noticeable here and there – especially in the way the action is shot, with cuts to gory close-ups of blood and guts spilling, cut-off arms, and so on, all the friggin’ time – but the (amateur) actors do a very decent job, it has a nice bleak atmosphere, the setting is incredibly grim, and the movie itself looks pretty good, thanks to great camera work by writer, director, editor and cinematographer Doug Ross. I also really appreciated the nostalgic approach to special effects, which relied solely on practical gore, without any CGI whatsoever. Thus, “The Sky Has Fallen”, even though produced in 2009, feels like a long-lost movie from the 70s or 80s – and yes, that’s a compliment.

I also really digged the story. Not because it was incredibly complex and/or original or anything, but because I found it to be really gripping. It successfully mixes a typical revenge/man-on-a-mission-flick with a zombie apocalypse, which made for an interesting pairing. I also really liked the lead characters, Lance and Rachel. Carey MacLaren and Laurel Kemper – both so good (for non-professionals) in their individual roles that I was surprised to see that they hardly worked as actors ever since – have great chemistry together, and the longer the movie progressed, the more and more I felt quite attached to their characters. At the beginning, both of them are a complete mystery to us. But as the movie progresses, we learn more and more about them, sometimes through them telling us their story, and sometimes also in what they obviously don’t tell us/each other (which is occasionally hinted at in very short flashback images) – which can be just as revealing. And of course, ultimately, as soon as we close in on the end, we finally get to know what happened to them at the night of the outbreak, and thus what motivates them. Those were some of my favorite moments of the film, mostly because they were very dark and grim. But even apart from those, there are a couple of really nice moments throughout that really stood out for me, like when Lance contemplates killing Rachel, the reading of the priest’s diary, or the great ending. Finally, when it comes to brutality, “The Sky Has Fallen” really pulls no punches, offering a lot of – well-made – gore.

On the downside, I found “The Sky Has Fallen” to be a little confusing. For example, why do the shapes kill some people right away, but bind others to a tree, and for what purpose? I also think that as rich in variety as the movie is thanks to the shitload of ideas that were thrown together here, it’s almost too much (the zombies, the shapes, the alien hands, the nightmarish visions, the outbreaks of excessive violence, the traps set by surviving humans, the biblical implications, and so on). I also really could have done without all those scenes with random victims getting torn to pieces, which really felt gratuitous, and like an unnecessary excess in blood and gore. Also, the action is the one part of the movie that suffers the most from the micro-budget, since it’s chopped up in very little pieces, without any flow to the movements; thus, it was actually kinda hard for me to follow. It seemed like random shots cobbled together, and also got quite repetitive after a while, since it’s always the same: Lance is moving his sword – cut to some close-up gore, Rachel is shooting her gun – cut to some close-up gore, Lance is slashing again – cut to some close-up gore… and so on. The cuts followed so fast at times that it occasionally started to drive me insane. Finally, I really could have done without the revelation at the end, which seemed a little too far-fetched and silly to me (then again, it’s totally possible that she was just lying, in order to comfort him; an explanation that I would very much prefer). As far as non-budget indie-horror-movies go, though, “The Sky Has Fallen” is a very competent and highly enjoyable effort.


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