When it comes to horror films, there is nothing and I mean NOTHING that makes me happier than practical special effects. Before CGI came through and virtually ruined almost everything in its path (IMO), horror films were a handmade craft of originality and terror. Severed limbs, exploding heads, and bloodshed spilling across the screen were things that fans were used to seeing in the 70s’, 80’s, and 90’s. Then the almighty film gods had to come through and try to kill off everything we loved to see with their attempts to “get it done quicker for cheaper” and “make it look more real.” That last part pains me. Sure, CGI works in some films, but it needs to stay far away from the realm of horror.
Fast forward to 2009 and writer, director, producer, AND cinematographer Doug Roos releases The Sky Has Fallen, and with it adds to the resurgent and once thought dead world of practical special effects. This film boasts nothing less. The Sky Has Fallen is the tale of two people caught in a post apocalyptic world after a destructive virus has wiped out most of the population and turned some into zombie-like mutants hellbent on carnage. On top of these creatures constantly lurking in the woods throughout the film, there is a small hoard of black robed figures that appear at times, and seem to have a mind altering power over the deceased turning them into murderous slaves.
The two main characters, played by Carey MacLaren and Laurel Kemper, actually do a great job considering they’re relatively unknown actors in a low budget film. The chemistry and connection between the two is obviously there, but it’s the role of Lance (Maclaren) where I start to get a bit picky. Sure, I understand that he has lost everything and has his mind set on the destruction of these infected creatures, but his serious demeanor is almost too serious at times. I really would have liked to see a little more emotion out of him, other than “brick wall.” Maybe I’m just being grumpy. This film is more dialogue heavy than I was expecting, and actually has a very complex plot that is pretty interesting to watch unfold. It really grabs your attention and keeps you wondering how they got to the blood soaked hell hole that they’re trapped in.
The film itself is beautifully shot and set in a great looking rural location. You can really see the passion in each shot from Doug Roos as he directed, shot, and edited every scene. Roos also had a hand in the film’s special effects, and they are truly the movie’s bread and butter, providing a reason to keep your eyes glued to the screen. The main weapon in the film is in fact a samurai sword (which is an awesome touch and very original), and this lets you see the work of Roos and his crew in all of its gory glory. From decapitations, to chest length slashings, the blood flow is extremely heavy and up close, so the audience really gets to experience how visceral the effects are. It’s quite a treat to watch as the huge anti-CGI horror fan that I am, and a very nice throwback to the golden years of SFX. The blood comes in buckets, so the true gore fans shouldn’t be disappointed.
While the film could have toned down the dialogue a bit (less is more in some cases, unless you’re Tarantino), the only other downfall would be the sometimes shaky kill scenes that are a bit headache inducing at times. This by no means takes away from the finished product, however. It’s a true indie film with heart, that at times doesn’t even resemble an indie film, which is a compliment. Fans of practical gore should get on board and enjoy a nice complex tale of love, revenge, and blood splatter. Definitely worth a watch or two. The film can be purchased at theskyhasfallen.com.