The Sky Has Fallen (2009, 2015)
Directed by Doug Roos.
Written by Doug Roos.
Starring Carey MacLaren, Laurel Kemper and Cory Knisely.
Doug Roos’ independently produced, feature-length, post-apocalyptic horror film was promoted primarily on it’s practical special effects, make-up and lack of computer-generated imagery (CGI). In this respect The Sky Has Fallen does not disappoint. Shot in Missouri and clearly influenced by Ryuhei Kitamura’s Yakuza/Zombie splatter-fest Versus (2000), The Sky Has Fallen combines elements from various horror subgenres and, whereas most would fail, Roos’ somehow manages to make everything work cohesively with only a few missteps.
Humanity is almost lost to a devastating disease that decimates over six billion people in only a few hours. In an attempt to avoid infection, survivors flee out of the cities and into more remote, rural locations. What they don’t realise, at least initially, is that the airborne virus has mutated, giving birth to mysterious black-cloaked entities (plucked straight out of Norwegian black metal music video) that tear their way out of the infected. These creatures then proceed in carrying away the carcasses for use as incubators. Implanted with a black parasitic organism that resurrects the host, the dead rise again with only one remaining instinct…to torture the living. Humanity’s time on Earth is running out.
Armed with a pair of handguns and a katana, two survivors (Carey MacLaren and Laurel Kemper) roam the woods of Missouri; their paths crossed due to the tragic events that caused them to leave their homes. They have no destination set in their minds…only revenge!
Working within his budget (raised by working overnight shifts in retail), Doug Roos’ simplified his post-apocalyptic world by filming most of the action in a woodland setting, rather than in an urban one. This works to the film’s advantage as the spectrum of colours this luscious green scenery provides contrasts well with the crimson red blood that gets thrown around by the bucketload. With each swing of the katana, blood gushes from open wounds, splashing against surrounding trees.
The core of the narrative is placed firmly on the shoulders of principal actors Carey MacLaren and Laurel Kemper, who both perform admirably in their individual character portrayals; particularly MacLaren’s stoic determination to dismember everything that got in his way. Despite the setback of some slow pacing, their chemistry had me invested in their slowly blossoming romance (and yes, this is a love story!), complimented by the emotive score provided by James Sizemore.
But enough about romance! This is also a horror film, and gorehounds won’t be disappointed with the special make-up effects of Mike Strain Jr., Nathan Shelton and Doug Roos. From decapitation to mutilation, The Sky Has Fallen would make Tom Savini proud. The choreography is well executed and complimented by the clever use of cinematography and editing, which not only provides a visceral close-up of the action, but assists in covering up the shortcomings that a modest budget has on an independent production.
Doug Roos has crafted a truly creative horror flick; giving away only snippets of plot exposition through dream sequences, flashbacks and hallucinations throughout it’s 80 minute runtime. It should also be mentioned that I watched the 2015 ‘ultimate’ cut of The Sky Has Fallen, which I’m told is less dialogue heavy and more FX driven. Doug Roos has self-distributed the film since 2009 and entered The Sky Has Fallen into various film festivals; receiving nominations and awards for Best Horror Feature, Best Special Effects and Best Score. If you would like to help further promote The Sky Has Fallen, you can contribute to Doug Roos’ latest Kickstarter campaign. The energy expelled in creating this visual indie marvel is encouraging to those of us who support low-budget cinema.