Strange other-worldly sounds are echoing around the world. A group of researchers, led by expert ufologist Lorraine Gardner, begin an expedition to track down the point of origin from which the sounds emerge. Yet as their journey deepens, they begin to discover more than they bargained for.
Since my days as a boy eager for knowledge of all things extra-terrestrial (fiction and non-) and reading of the accounts by New Hampshire residents Barney and Betty Hill of their abduction by Aliens from September 19 to 21 in 1961 (an event known in some circles as either the “Hill Abduction” or the “Zeta Reticuli Incident”), I have been transfixed with the possibility that ETs do exist, that they have visited Earth before, and that they may or may not be docile entities whose only wish is to make friends. While I do not rule out that some accounts of alien abduction may be coming from people who are either less than truthfull profit-seekers or just mentally troubled, there seems far too much evidence to indicate that we have, indeed, been visited. Are they green, tentacled, one-eyed beings with fangs? In the fertile minds of authors, illustrators and filmmakers, possibly.
The evidence produced thus far suggests something more varied in appearance. There is one more thing that stands fairly certain since the Hill account revelation: filmdom shares a similar fervent passion. From docu-dramas like 1975’s Richard A. Colla-helmed The UFO Incident (detailing the Hill incident) to renowned author Whitley Strieber’s 1987 non-fiction book Communion (based on his own experience of abduction he alleges happened on December 26th, 1985), Hollywood and entertainment media have had quite the passion for the subject. It is one that serves the dual purpose of being informing and entertaining while being the catalyst for both tv ratings spikes and cash register ding sounds going of repeatedly at theatre box offices across the US if not the world. Certainly, it fanned enough of the imagination of Honduran-American filmmaker Conrad Faraj to create an indie motion picture in 2017 centering on the topic. Hence the birth of Fighting the Sky, a project of high ideals nearly done in by low budget and variable acting.
The action centers on a random group of characters in Ohio who are drawn by mysterious sounds to a remote house that may be a landing point for out-of-this-world creatures curious about our planet. Amongst the group are UFO expert Lorraine Gardner and her team, who are trying to trace the source of the noises. Soon the group must fight to survive against the creatures even as they fear the end of days. Are they being hunted for destruction or are the other-worlders simply trying to communicate?
I found it remarkable that Faraj was able to utilize some nice locations (in and around the cities of Mentor, Shelby, Lakewood and Avon, Ohio) and create what nifty effects he could on what is obviously a very low budget. It shows a true skill when it comes to bending the budget. There are several shots of the alien spaceship that rise rather close to the level of major studio B grade fare. Viewing it caused a level of pleasant surprise for me that I wasn’t expecting. Kudos go to sfx creator Corey McCauley for concocting the visuals as well a suitably grotesque, captivating creature costume (the enlarged blinking eyes were an especially ingenious touch). It is unfortunate that the rest of the movie ambles along in a decidedly sluggish fashion. Some scenes seem to have the camera linger a bit too long. While the runtime is not exactly excessive at 97 minutes, a few scenes give the feeling of still needing a bit of a trim, editing-wise. The camera appears to be waiting for an action or juicy dialogue capture before advancing to the next set-piece.
Script-wise, an abundance of casual verbiage weighs down the story. It almost comes off as much of the material being incidental toss-off verbiage rather than advancing the plot. As if the exposition has been completed for the scene but the director needs to pad the segment so he has the actors just walk around and say what comes to mind. In this instance, more is not better. Sometimes concise dialogue can be just as effective as editing of celluloid in pacing a project.
Of course, even the most predictable of screenplay can be elevated if the cast it is given to to bring to life is up to the task. Unfortunately, that is not the case with this piece. A mixed bag ranging from solid to lacking is the order of the day in that department. Angela Cole, as the heroine Lorraine, comes off best as a mixture of strength and vulnerability with something of a screen presence that commands. I admired energy and physicality that Roger Conners brings as her assistant Shaw but his constant worry state begins to grate after a bit. He’s much better as Lady Athena Slay in 2018’s Mother Krampus 2: Slay Ride as well as Abaddon in the 2016 New Blood: Awakening.
Fighting the Sky is a film like that archetype of the monster chasing the hero/heroine finale cinema is always relying on: run, run, trip, almost get in the grasp of the beast only for the protagonist to scramble away at the last second. It’s promising, reaching for you with a compelling theme and some dazzle effects yet….doesn’t….quite…collect you, finally, in it’s grasp. Still, if you are one who enjoys the ride getting to the destination more than the destination itself, this one may just be for you.