The Sky Has Fallen

Dir. Doug Roos

A mysterious and highly contagious virus spreads throughout the earth’s population. Those who survive have fled to remote locations, but before long they begin to catch glimpses of mysterious black-cloaked figures, carrying away the dead and experimenting with them. When strangers Lance and Rachel cross paths, they begin to fall for each other and in doing so, realise that despite everything, hope should never be lost and life is always worth fighting for. They set out to kill the leader of the creatures in a last ditch effort to save humanity.

The opening credits of Doug Roos’ mainly dialogue driven, character-centric film unspool beneath statically charged radio reports of an airborne pandemic spreading pandemonium across the globe. When the film begins, events are set a while after the earth’s population has been almost completely eviscerated. The two protagonists are amongst only a tiny number of survivors, their initial detachment and wariness of each other indicating the high risks they want to avoid in forging friendships or relationships.

The story centres on Lance and Rachel – two survivors - who are attempting to come to terms with their new reality and the dangers it possesses. The weary, somnambulistic performances of Carey MacLaren and Laurel Kemper add to the dream-like tone of the film, as does the languid pace with which it moves. They move and speak with a quiet sense of purpose. It is through their cautious exchanges that we learn who they are, where they’ve come from and eventually what their fate will be. Roos works a number of unsettling, provocative and bleak ideas into the script such as the death of God and mankind’s quest for unattainable knowledge and salvation. Love, companionship, loss and the horror of sadness are also addressed throughout the surprisingly thoughtful story. The discovery of a dead priest’s blood-spattered diary adds a distinct Lovecraftian/Fulcian dimension to events as Rachel reads about the priest’s efforts to save his daughter from possession and death. His increasingly feverish and desperate scribblings describe how he eventually begins to see ‘eyes under her skin, watching.’ Horrors are often described as much as they are actually depicted. That’s not to say The Sky Has Fallen is wanting for any viscera – the tale is peppered with wet, bloody flashbacks, buckets of blood and close-ups of elongated fingers stitching ragged needles through tender flesh.

The creatures featured throughout the story are barely glimpsed – mysterious black-cloaked figures moving wraith-like through the woods. An eerie stillness pervades proceedings and Roos builds and sustains a bizarre atmosphere that at times resembles the warped dreaminess of a Lucio Fulci ‘living dead’ film. Indeed the zombies featured throughout The Sky Has Fallen could be distant relatives of those featured in Fulci’s work – shambolic, almost stately and strangely sad – they appear and disappear ghost-like and exhibit bizarre modifications made to their almost faceless bodies by the black-cloaked figures. Blades protrude from limbs, eyes and mouths are stitched shut and almost all appear to have been flayed. They may move slowly but their advancements are relentless.

Roos shoots much of the events in tight close-up shots, most likely due to budgetary restraints, but also because of the intimacy of the story and to sustain the eerie mood he so deftly creates. The unnerving angles ensure an abundance of moments in which characters are shocked by something moving into shot seemingly out of nowhere. The numerous fight scenes are well handled and tightly edited. The special make-up effects are also striking in their appearance and weld much more power because they are shown so fleetingly.

Described as a post-apocalyptic love story, The Sky Has Fallen weaves together a number of genres and conceptual motifs to create an engaging, thoughtful and highly atmospheric film. The atmosphere is enhanced by the unusually lush and poignant string based score courtesy of James Sizemore.

An interesting concoction of visual and thematic ideas akin to Hellraiser, City of the Living Dead and The Road; the whole of which is a highly unusual and strangely poetic film.

The Sky Has Fallen will be screened in Belfast on Sat 28th August as part of the 2nd Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival

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