I seem to have been on a zombie kick lately; well, let me clarify: fate seems to have me on a zombie kick lately, as the lion’s share of the last few flicks I’ve had come across my desk have been of the lumbering undead variety. Not that that’s a bad thing; as I’ve said many times, I’ve always been one to enjoy zombie flicks, although I’ll also be the first to admit that the subgenre is getting a little tired…still, it’s that knowledge that drives we Fellow Fans on, isn’t it? That hopeful little flash through the tapestry of jaded cynicism that we’ll find a diamond in the rough…
Doug Roos’ 2009 feature The Sky Has Fallen is indeed another entry into the field of the staggering undead, but with a couple of new ideas and an interesting perspective.
News reports inform us that some strange affliction is spreading like wildfire across the country, perhaps the globe. No one seems to be sure where it started or how it spreads, but it’s painfully apparent that it’s a horrific, fatal disease; that, however, is not the worst of it. Strange organisms seem to spring forth from the dead, growing to maturity quickly, then stitching together what’s left of the remains which then reanimate, and move at the beck and call of the strange, colorless, new life-forms. This becomes a virtual army that spreads the contagion even more quickly; mankind, it seems, may well be on the losing end of this struggle.
We become engrossed in the trials of two young people caught up in this apocalypse; Lance and Rachel, a samurai-sword swinging man hell-bent to put an end to this madness, and a young woman with dark secrets of her own.
I was impressed with Roos’ original take on the genre; the manifestation of the virus as a bipedal, dark, spooky entity was inspired (and there’s a scene of one of them being “born” that’s pretty gruesome), and then having them use the bodies of the recently departed as “drones” was a good idea. Focusing the story on Lance and Rachel and their individual struggles with their feelings about each other (and far more so, themselves) in the face of the crisis was bold, but the showcasing of their loneliness and despair as long, often mostly-silent encounters around the campfire make the film tend to drag in places. I totally get what he was shooting for, but overall it kinda drew out the pacing for my money. Principal actors Carey McLaren and Laurel Kemper did very well with their respective roles, although again the introspective nature of the narrative forced a lot of dry performance.
The make up effects are where this film really shines; the gore and mangled faces of the zombies are as good or better than a lot of much higher-end flicks I’ve seen, and considering the budget these folks were working with, it’s doubly impressive. We get some very unique looks, as well as visceral and bloody visions of the ravages of the contagion on the frail human form. During some of the quick-cut, Oriental-styled fight scenes, blood flies around like something out of a Tarantino opium dream…buckets of the red stuff finds itself flung about the actors and scenery, and this element of the film is just a damned good time.
I gotta say, despite the setback of some slow pacing, I found this one a pretty engrossing watch; I kept wanting more about Lance and Rachel revealed…I wanted them to succeed in their impossible quest; any film that raises that kind of interest is definitely worth watching. Again, I point out that it was done with a teeny-tiny budget, and that makes Roos’ achievement even more remarkable. I’d like to see what this guy could do with a half-million bucks and that same level of passion and dedication…and with a little luck, maybe one day we will.
Check it out if you get the chance.
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