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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 05.23.08] post apocalyptic movie review apocalyptic



Year: 2008
Director: Doug Roos
Writer: Doug Roos
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 4.8 out of 10

Before I'm made to put on my critic's hat and dive headlong into the meat and potatoes of this review, I'd like to start things off by sharing some of my more gut level thoughts on this obvious labor of love called The Sky has Fallen. A low budget affair that attempts to put a supernatural spin on an otherwise pretty classic post-apocalyptic scenario, The Sky has Fallen is directed by fellow horror fanatic Doug Roos who makes a valiant attempt to offer up something new for the genre and his audience. And, with influences ranging everywhere from the frenetic Japanese zombie flick Versus to The Exorcist, the groundwork is certainly laid for something very special indeed. Unfortunately, all of these great ideas and good intentions just don't come together in the finished product.


And you know what? Lots of stuff works in this film. The makeup FX are indisputably well done while the eerie premise and shadowy cloaked figures go a long way to amp up the mystery of the plot. As a whole however, The Sky Has Fallen just doesn't seem to come together and it kills me because I so wanted it to. I wanted to be swept up in a post-apocalyptic love story about two survivors thrown together after a world wide calamity and I so wanted the action to meet all of the samurai flavored expectations that that awesome promo poster and the visual assuredness of the make-up work had given me. But that's not what I got.





Perhaps, if Roos had a longer resume to back up his work, I might have been inclined to go out on a limb and lump him in with other directors from the school of what Paul Schrader calls "Transcendental Style," where acute editing and sound design work together to create a new visual language. But I just don't feel confident going there. See, when I was watching The Sky has Fallen, I was immediately struck by the film's very montage heavy editing technique in which you would be shown, for example, a shot of a hand, then a face, then a sword being raised, then the zombie, then the sword swipe and then blood fly past the head of the protagonist.

So, what I wish I could do is talk about Robert Bresson and his penchant for strange cuts to hands and legs and tie it in to this film, but I'm sure that this choppy editing technique was used, not as a artistic flourish, but rather as a way to give the impression of sword play that was either far too difficult to choreograph or just too dangerous to film. Either way, it only works to dislocate your engagement from the action which, in this kind of film, is not a good thing for your editing to do.





Another problem with the film is that it's too thoughtful for its own good. Sounds like a stupid thing to complain about I know, but the majority of the direction is so controlled and precious that it essentially disrupts the flow of the narrative. For example, while young actors Carey MacLaren and Laurel Kemper do a fairly good job of carrying the weight of the 70 minute picture, they often deliver their lines like monologues while starring off into the sky as though lost in their own deep thoughts. Everything is presented as being heavy heavy heavy stuff even though we're really not given enough to be truly invested.

See, the narrative starts off strong with a good ol' post-calamity set up told through scratchy radio broadcasts but it isn't long before the film starts to suffer from the same dramatic hardships that befall most films that take place in only a woodland location. Mainly that it starts to feel like the characters have nothing to do but walk around aimlessly and we never know where they're going or why. But, even the best films suffer from this. We even saw the same problem befall Mathew Hope's The Vanguard which, besides a few aimless minutes of wandering, was an absolutely exceptional film. Plus, The Sky has Fallen also gets somewhat muddled by some ill explained supernatural occurrences. I like ambiguity in horror and it's what makes PA such a strong genre, but without a clearly defined antagonists (whether it be a person, a disease or a race against time etc.) you quickly loose drama.





But perhaps the biggest problem I had with The Sky has Fallen is that it's essentially devoid of any suspense or the mandatory scares that you want in a horror film. It's got the gore and it's got the atmospheric photography but it can't seem to back them up by generating anxiety in the viewer.

There were, however, many things about Doug Roos' first feature that showed the promise of great things to come and a I sincerely hope that after The Sky has Fallen plays the festival circuit he finds himself some backing to tackle even bigger things. He's certainly got the photographic chops, the big ideas, and the passion needed to make a whopper of a follow-up.







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Ulises (10 years ago) Reply

Bummer. I know how you feel. Sometimes, you feel really bad because you want to like a film, and you know it's someone's 'baby', and yet you can't ignore its flaws, and so have to spell them out in a negative review. But at least you give Roos some really good things to build upon, so kudos to you for this review.

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Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

Cool review. You guys have an awesome website, and your honesty is really appreciated. Here's a positive opinion on the film:
http://www.pulpmovies.com/reviews/the-sky-has-fallen

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

Could not agree more with this review. I found the script laboring and downright boring. The acting pace(if that is acting) is drawn and no dynamics to the characters, action or the setting. Don't think Roos is likely to find backing if he's using this film to fish for an angel.

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Mike Nichols (9 years ago) Reply

Someone who worked on the film obviously has a personal agenda against the filmmaker.

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

This movie could've used some more humor to relieve the tension, but this is a great little film. The acting (yes, that is acting) is really good especially for a low budget feature without any stars, and the music is incredible. There are all kinds of dynamics to the characters, the action, and the setting if you actually pay attention. And I bet Roos already has funding for his next couple projects just based off this film alone.

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

This is a great movie. I jumped several times when I saw it and the pacing through the movie works good. The gore effects are excellent. I would recommend this movie to any Horror fan especially if you find big budget movies lacking any real characters.

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Vik Maharaj (9 years ago) Reply

Doug Roo’s ‘The Sky Has Fallen’ is an exciting and wholly original take on the post-apocalyptic/zombie film sub-genre. In fact, it is reminiscent of many classic genres, which come together to form a sort of creative hybrid film that is unquestionably unique. And for me, that uniqueness works because Doug obviously cares about entertaining his audience, and cares about telling a good story. The music, cinematography, effects makeup, etc. are all first class. In fact, the movie as a whole entertains in a way that makes it feel as though it is a much larger film, despite an undoubtedly tight budget. In fact, I think that Doug’s biggest achievement (besides his obvious determination and indie spirit) is his talent here for capturing the viewer from the very first frames of the film, and slowly and expertly ratcheting up the tension as it progresses, without sacrificing the developing relationship between the two main characters. What we’re left with then is a film that moves with both suspense and heart…in other words, just a damn good story! And looking to the future, with the attention I’m sure he’ll receive from his first outing, I personally can’t wait to see what Doug does next.

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Bob Macon (9 years ago) Reply

The clearly defined antagonist is the leader.

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Kenneth Sanghorn (9 years ago) Reply

Watched this film and I don't agree with Vik on this one. This genre could be much better served.

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Grant Wilkins (9 years ago) Reply

Wow, let's destroy an indie before it even gets a chance. This guy obviously didn't have any money, and while that wouldn't excuse an absolute pos, this movie is actually good. Heck, this reviewer only gave Hellboy II a 6.8 out of 10. You should always take whatever any critic says with a grain of salt and see the movie for yourself. Some people just won't get it or they have different tastes or maybe the movie really sucks, but it's all a matter of opinion. This movie is definitely worth seeing. It is an indie horror movie made for nothing, but the music alone is incredible. There are actual genuine scares, the acting is perfectly fine, the effects are great, the fights work well--they're not random choppy crap the way they're described above, etc. The story really does come together. It's a good film.

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agentorange (9 years ago) Reply

I agree Grant. People should see the film and make up their own minds. We're certainly not out to jeopardize anyones career, but we have a duty to be as honest as possible.

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quietearth (9 years ago) Reply

Only gave Hellboy II a 6.8? I stopped watching halfway through, I give it a 4, and it only gets that high because of the production design.

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sliceoflife (9 years ago) Reply

Hellboy II... prolly a 9 in my book. I always hate rating systems though... like trying to make something completely subjective appear objective by attaching numbers.

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Will Hanlon (9 years ago) Reply

A drastically different cut of this film will be playing at festivals and sold on DVD. New footage has been added, the conversations have been tightened with extraneous bits removed, the origin of the figures is much less ambiguous, some sequences have been significantly revised, new sound elements have been incorporated, etc.

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29years (9 years ago) Reply

Reshoots are underway.

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

Another positive review:
http://www.horrorsociety.com/2009/04/13/review-the-sky-has-fallen/

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agentorange (9 years ago) Reply

"The Sky Has Fallen could probably fit just as well on a theatrical stage as a movie screen."

I would agree with this statement. It definitely felt theatrical in tone.

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Will Hanlon (8 years ago) Reply

The Sky Has Fallen won Best Feature at the 2009 Freak Show Horror Film Festival, and it won Best Horror Feature at the 2009 Indie Gathering Film Festival.

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Michelle (8 years ago) Reply

This review is completely worthless, and it sounds like the reviewer didn't even watch the film (or he did what his fellow "writer" did for Hellboy 2--stop watching halfway through... this site should be critic first, journalist second, fan never). Lance is out there for revenge. At the very beginning, he says he's out there because that's where the Leader is, and his motive is clearly developed as the film progresses (later Rachel realizes it's for revenge, it can’t get any more obvious guys, she directly states this). Everything builds on what comes before it. The Leader is obviously the central antagonist, and he's made out as such from the beginning. One only has to read the synopsis to get that. The Vanguard is the film with no central antagonist. That movie also has a lead character riding in a tank yet that same character repeatedly emphasizes that there's no oil. If there's no oil, what's the tank running on? Or all the tanks near the end or the helicopters? They specifically state no oil ("When the last of the oil ran out," another character says) so there's no leeway there. No room for the Corporations to save extra for themselves. Of course, there's billions of other problems with that movie like a bright blue tarp with the world's crappiest camouflage net thrown over it... why not just use a green tarp to blend his hideout into the forest? That movie also has the worst zombie makeup effects, and the director even said it's supposed to be bad... sorry buddy, wrong answer. You can say they’re supposed to be tribal, but don’t say they’re supposed to be bad. Still though, the acting is damn good (better than this film), and it's a very low budget movie so you can forgive a lot, but if you want to talk about something that doesn't come together in the end, it's that flick, not this one. The last shot of that film comes out of nowhere... it's not setup at all and makes no sense with how the zombies acted before (“they're learning” doesn't explain sh*t). There's also the character of Zac getting pumped up on adrenaline to literally do nothing but run and collapse... there's no indication at all he distracts the Biosyns or does anything useful, and the end antagonists literally run from nowhere with zero development. You guys pick that movie and yet it has an IMDB rating of 3.7. That rating alone doesn’t mean sh*t but read the comments... that movie has serious problems. I still enjoy it and understand why you guys like it, but come on. Almost everything in this review makes no sense and is not constructive at all. The length of the director’s resume shouldn’t matter at all. You don’t have to pick on the director. You don’t even understand what the word montage means. The action is not a montage, and nobody else complains about that. The style is very different from other films. The fact you think you see blood flying past the head of the protagonist means it works, because you never actually see that in one shot. The combination of the shots gives you that impression. It all builds together. Yes, the actors probably couldn’t do complex sword moves... it’s a no budget movie (hell, I bet The Vanguard had a bigger budget)! Thanks for stating the obvious. The fact you’re trying to name drop and show your intelligence by citing Robert Bresson is just ridiculous and egotistical. There are no strange random cuts to hands and legs. You see creature weapons, you see the sword in the hands of the protagonist, etc. You never see legs. It’s not choppy, and it makes perfect sense. A wide shot of Lance tearing through tons of zombies would’ve been nice, but guess what? There’s no budget, and that’s been done time and time again. The director had to work with jack sh*t, and if you watch the behind the scenes, you’ll know there were all kinds of problems finding extras. But of all the reviews, you’re the only one to think the editing in the fights disengages the viewer, and you’re contradictory too, because you said you’re immediately struck by it so it obviously got your attention. You never know where the characters are going or why? Bullsh*t. They’re following tracks (stated directly in another sequence). Lance is out there to kill the Leader, and Rachel was trying to hide since the cities weren’t safe (again, directly from the film). Did you listen to the dialogue at all? Yes, the conversations needed to be paced better, they could be cut down a lot, but you could just say that in your review instead of making sh*t up. You have no clue how to express yourself or what the underlying issue is. This review is not constructive. It has no helpful tips on how to improve. You also use “loose” instead of “lose” if I want to nitpick and be unfair like you are. Of course, your greatest blunder is saying the film is devoid of any suspense or scares. If you didn’t get into it at all and didn’t like the characters at all, probably cause you didn’t listen or finish the film, it’s no wonder you don’t find what happens scary, but plenty of other people do. There are many frightening scenes that work like the flashback Rachel has of the night her father died, the night scene where Lance is a creature, etc. This is a movie that focuses on the relationship of two characters. You see it develop over the course of the film, and all of that ties together in the end. It does something very different with the post-apocalyptic scenario. It’s not just survivors trying to survive, but you clearly missed that. Other reviewers got it. It also works on different levels with the action, the effects, the mystery of the figures, etc. Why don’t you just state this review is your opinion? You try to speak with god-like authority and that’s the biggest problem with critics like you. You tore apart an indie and stopped it from getting released. Nice going. I hope you’re proud of yourself. Why don’t you try to make a feature and see how many years it takes you? Then when one guy doesn’t get it and writes complete lies about it, you can see how that feels.


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