Skyman Review- A Fun Found Footage Film To See In The Drive-in
Daniel Myrick, who is one half of the team that brought us The Blair Witch Project, is back with another found footage film. Instead of pissed off witches that can control nature, Skyman uses aliens. Carl Merryweather is an eccentric 40-year-old who believes he had an alien encounter when he was ten years old. For years he was an oddity in town. Even among other UFO enthusiasts, he is laughed at. Through it all, he maintains he spoke telepathically with an alien. Now thirty years later, he intends on spending his birthday reconnecting with the alien he calls Skyman.
Carl(Micheal Selle) is a strange guy. He was isolated from an early age by a parent suffering from his mental illness, probably PTSD from war. Carl suffers from a similar malady as Jimmy’s brother Chuck on Better Call Saul. He is “sensitive” to electricity, and electromagnetic energy, and his sister describes him as obsessive. His brother Kenny left home as soon as he could and never looked back. Gina, his dubious but doting sister, has maintained the family connection looking after both their mother in a nursing home and Carl, who has never grown past the singular event.
Gina(Nicolette Sweeney) is a kind person who is doing the best she can. She has protected him her whole life and wants to indulge his whims but clearly doesn’t believe him. Sweeney and Selle are both very believable, and the love the siblings feel for each other is a driving force behind the small amount of tension the film has, especially in the final act. Selle never completely derails, which keeps you wondering if there might be an alien eventually.
As an eerie alien piece, it isn’t all that scary. As a character study on the long term trauma of mental illness, it is brilliant. I’m not sure this is what Myrick intended. Still, nonetheless, it is a powerful statement on the “otherness” of the world, especially now locked inside during the pandemic and the toll isolation can take. During almost all of the film, you believe Carl is a troubled man. His father insisted on an upbringing that fostered Carl’s unconventional beliefs. It made him the perfect target for abuse. As a child, there is evidence that he was bullied by the town “cool guy”. As an adult, he is a novelty. Interviews with people who know the family paint a picture that ranges from sympathetic curiosity to condescension.
Some moments are perversely funny. Weird comments about goats that never get explained, and turtle tongue appreciation share space with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It’s comical, but also deeply sad. At one point, Carl calculates payment in his head quickly, and you aren’t entirely sure if he’s a super genius or super weird. Even his sister and friend think he’s off. He’s become obsessed with alien encounters so much he thinks Howard Hughes’s interest in an area was a good thing. Through it all, Selle deadpans his way through the dialogue that would be laughable if he wasn’t so committed. Some of the funniest beats come between friend Marcus who follows the siblings out into the desert.
The alien in question is a cross between Jarjar Binks and Siren Head. It’s difficult to tell if the alien is a benign explorer or a malevolent force. By the end of the film, you still don’t know, but it hardly matters. Skyman is more about the journey to that place in time than who Carl is meeting there. A less is more approach in the final scene shows just enough to pique the imagination. It could be Siren Head, who took Carl or extraterrestrials.
Myrick makes good use of the setting. The dessert is already a beautiful and wild place where dark and light converge in weird shadows that are as pretty as they are unsettling. As a backdrop for otherworldly nonsense, it is ideal. Gorgeous drone shots are some of the more exciting shot selections. Sound work is dubious, especially when the “sound guy” leaves three fourths the way through the film for legal reasons. It may be part of the charm of the amateur film-making concept, but I’m not a fan of having to turn up my volume that drastically. This will undoubtedly be less of an issue on the big screen.
Similar to William Friedkin’s Bug, you never quite know what happened. It could be the actions of a disturbed mind, or something supernatural. I’m pretty sure Carl is a wackadoo, but by the end, I’m beginning to believe it. “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry,” says Gina. That’s how I felt the majority of the film. Skyman, while not the scariest movie out there, will play nicely in movie-starved drive-ins where the outdoor elements can add to the experience. With drive-in’s seeing a resurgence during the pandemic, I’m betting this alien head-scratcher will be well received.
Myrick’s vision isn’t perfect, there are a few pacing issues, and there is entirely too much time spent on build-up, but the ending will leave you questioning if aliens might exist. If you are fans of these sorts of faux documentaries, you will like Skyman. In the right setting, it could be creepy even. There are far worse ways to spend your evening. It’s in drive-in theaters now and on VOD everywhere on July 7th, 2020.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.