Friday, 25 September 2015


Despite the somewhat confrontational nature of the subject us horror fans enjoy, I've found it to be an extremely welcoming and friendly online community. I've made plenty of good friends through this genre, been invited to plenty of groups and found nothing but encouragement and support from fellow fans and those who produce the movies that we love.
You go, Internet Horror Community! You're alright in my book.
Recently one such friendly filmmaker, the very talented Doug Roos contacted me about taking a look at his movie, The Sky Has Fallen.
With a cool trailer and a promise to offer 'All practical effects. No CGI. No shaky cam', I was EXTREMELY interested in watching his work.
Is this a film where's the sky's the limit? Or was I setting myself up for a fall?
Read on…


Dir: Doug Roos
Starring: Carey MacLaren, Laurel Kemper, Cory Knisely, Grant Anstine, Kevin Keppy, Nathan Shelton, Arianne Goddard, Ryan Chick, Doug Steward, Amanda Russell, Amanda Ianelli, Natalie LaTurno

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Mankind has been devastated by a plague like no other. Victims find themselves agonised and enraged, bleeding from their extremities before succumbing to the disease, at which point terrifying, black-clad entities tear their way out of the infected body. As if this was not bad enough, the otherworldly visitors then stitch their victims' ravaged bodies back together, resurrecting them and deploying them as zombie-like foot soldiers in their ongoing war on humanity.
Lance (MacLaren) is one of the few survivors of the outbreak and now he is roaming the woods, armed with a katana and handguns. Lance is a man totally and utterly consumed with his desire to catch and kill a bizarre white-clad figure, the Leader (Knisely/Keppy), to avenge those he has lost and hopefully end the epidemic for good.
This quest sees Lance plunged deeper into the forest where a chance encounter brings him into contact with the desperate Rachel (Kemper). Despite his initial misgivings for bringing anybody into his care (for reasons that become apparent later on in the film), Lance allows Rachel to tag along with him while he continues his pursuit.
As the pair plunge deeper into the woods they encounter survivors and undead enemies, are forced to overcome the psychological warfare of the shadowy invaders and, against all odds, form a bond in the face of adversity.
Will this bond be enough to save them... and humanity?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Director Roos raised the funds for this movie by working late night shifts. As such you'd think the production values would be pretty low. Ok, they're not exactly a James Cameron movie, but it still looks bloody good.
And the bloodiest and best of it is in the absolutely magnificent practical effects. The Sky Has Fallen has won plenty of praise for its gruesome special effects, and for good reason. The mangled, splattery undead bad guys roaming around are fantastically realised and their violent assaults are truly stomach-churning to behold. With a spectacular array of gruesome wounds and an impressive bodycount for a movie with so few major characters, this is an old school Eighties gorehound's dream come true.
What's more Roos clearly has an eye for the camera, ensuring that each shot is competently and strikingly framed. The woodland setting is very atmospheric while the haunting flashbacks and dream/hallucination sequences use deep shadows and moody lighting to really crank up the otherworldly feel. Elsewhere, the black-cloaked invaders are genuinely frightening, even before you witness the atrocities they commit against their screaming victims.
Obviously, a film can be full of impressive gore and eye-catching visuals but still fall short if there's no wit or imagination to the plot. Thankfully the story (written by Roos) shows plenty of both.
It's no mean feat to come up with a new and interesting take on zombie flicks, but Roos manages it with his intimidating, shadowy sentient viruses and their shambling, witless followers. The premise alone is excellent and combining that with the tried and trusted 'avenging lone wolf rediscovering his humanity' story arc gives a strong framework for compelling story-telling. We have some clear and well-established motivations and the dialogue between the leads helps to establish their characters further. What's more we are given some important backstory via a series of radio broadcasts a la The War of the Worlds, a handy narrative tool that handles exposition without forcing awkward dialogue to get the audience up to date. This is basic storytelling, but so many low-budgeters fail to even achieve this so it's refreshing to see Roos hit all his marks.
His leads are obviously quite inexperienced but they make a game go of it, plus both are obviously rather easy on the eye. Kemper in particular could certainly do well in the genre in the future.
Finally the original score by James Sizemore really is quite excellent. It's haunting and really encapsulates the desolate, desperate mood of the film. My compliments to you, sir.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I've a lot of respect for the way in which Roos got himself out there and scraped together the funds to make his very first feature-length film. However, as well as he did, The Sky Has Fallen is still a low-budget offering and those financial constraints are apparent at times. The visuals are ok for the most part with only minor blips here and there, but at times the audio does get a little patchy.
What's more while the action is more than splattery enough to entertain, some of the choreography is a bit lacklustre. It's not terrible by any stretch, but it doesn't quite match up to the awesome blood and guts on display.
Also, while I praised the leads for being mostly pretty good in their roles, every now and then some inexperience shows among the cast. Of course with a low-budget genre film it's unrealistic to expect a cast packed with Meryl Streeps, Robert DeNiros and Tom Hankses, but every now and then we do get the odd clunky delivery.
I do feel that the cast probably weren't helped by some awkward lines in the script. Writing natural sounding dialogue is really tough and Roos does a pretty good job throughout, so when a less believable line is delivered it really jars with the rest.
Finally, the dialogue isn't the only issue I had with the writing. After establishing a really great premise, I do feel that the story then boils down to a pretty simplistic, linear plot. Some scenes do feel a little repetitive (sit by fire, dialogue to reveal that Lance is haunted and driven, wake up, kill zombies, follow Leader, lose him, make camp, sit by fire, rinse and repeat...) but the film manages to remain compelling by upping the ante both in terms of Lance's nightmarish tales and the violence/intensity of the blood-soaked fight scenes. Personally I'd love to see a sequel so we can be given a few more answers and the world that Roos establishes so well expanded upon.

THE VERDICT: The lengthy list of flaws I've just pointed out may make it seem as if I think The Sky Has Fallen is a bad film. This is definitely not the case. It's simply my opinion of the few areas that a very good first feature could be expanded upon to become excellent.
That Roos achieved such a compelling tale with so little experience and funds is an absolute miracle and suggests that he will become a major genre force in the years to come.
The Sky Has Fallen is well worth checking out, with some marvellous effects work and a highly original story, complete with some hauntingly personal character beats, this is a bloody good indie horror flick. Sure it has some first-time hiccups, but these rarely get in the way, instead hinting that when Roos has a couple more movies under his belt he will be a brilliant director. I can't wait to witness his development.

If you want to find out more about the movie, head over to The Sky Has Fallen's official Facebook page here. Give it a Like while you're there too, these hard-working guys will appreciate it.
If you want to take the plunge and purchase the DVD (and I do recommend it), you can buy it right here.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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