UFO horror is an acquired taste. Found footage horror is an acquired taste. Luckily, Skyman–both a UFO film and a found footage film–has a juggernaut in its corner. The film is written, directed, and produced by Daniel Myrick, one-half of the duo who created The Blair Witch Project (1999), arguably the shining gem of the subgenre.
Skyman finds Myrick once again returning to his roots, opting for a faux-documentary style approach as we follow sort-of-savant and lifelong tinkerer Carl Maryweather (Michael Selle) on his self-governed UFO quest out into the Mojave desert.
Skyman is less of a UFO film and more of a character study on Carl, the film’s specimen. Despite my initial want for more ‘expert’ testimonies and UFO ‘factoids’ that UFO found footage films are oft rich with, this style of filmmaking also lends extremely well in creating intimacy. Those rare monumental moments captured during everyday activities, and a deeper and more raw connection to our subject as he talks directly to us out of the side of his mouth while he drives his truck about town. Carl is a fascinating soul, the heart of this film, and even though he’s jabbering on about something we don’t believe to be true the majority of the film, we can’t help but watch him follow his quest, taking us all along for the ride.
Though Carl would consider himself a loner, he is by no means alone. Sorting through the boxes of his memories leading up to his 40th birthday trek into the past, Carl is joined by his concerned but endlessly loving sister Gina (Nicolette Sweeney) and the easygoing, happy-to-help Marcus (Faleolo Alailima). Carl’s supporting cast pop in and out throughout the film, Marcus works at the hardware store where Carl gets most of his UFO-hunting supplies, but it’s the final birthday hurrah where our trio are really given the opportunity to take this faux-documentary to new heights.
The familial chemistry between the siblings is heartwarming – when Gina reluctantly but supportively follows Carl out to their family’s desert property, when the pair giggle about reminiscent childhood memories from their sleeping bags – you can see real heart went into both writing and embodying these characters.
“ Carl is a fascinating soul, the heart of this film[.]”
In this documentary-style format, our mostly-anonymous film crew predominantly remain off-camera and out-of-frame. Skyman instead lets the story unfold through a few ‘staged’ sitdowns with our characters, but for the most part we’re following them about their day, at the dinner table, and silently watching like flies on the wall. The camera does a great job of capturing their conversations, sometimes too much so. We’re give three, sometimes four, different vantage points of a single conversation. We get to see every microexpression after every wrong or right thing said. Which, though complimentary in any other format, lifts the illusion of this style of filmmaking. The documentary-style becomes more style and less documentary.
And, while the cameramen do a great job navigating one of the later setpieces, a narrow bugout shelter built from storage containers, our claustrophobic sense of intimacy is vanquished by the continuous exposal to a variety of drone shots, overzealously establishing our deserted location as if we keep returning from commercial break.
Even though Carl’s journey is a touching one, it ultimately fizzles out into a predictable finale. The whole film we’re working towards a climax of did he or didn’t he, will he or won’t he – and unfortunately, the answer to that question lies in where this film is sorted in the VOD store (..or the Blockbuster shelves, if you want a better visual). It’s an answer you could guess before you click play and an ambiguity that won’t leave you talking as the credits roll.
“Skyman is the touching journey of a character who believes something too crazy to be true, but is kind-hearted and so wholly convinced, that to stop him would hurt no one else but himself. “
Skyman is the touching journey of a character who believes something too crazy to be true, but is kind-hearted and so wholly convinced, that to stop him would hurt no one else but himself. Horror has always championed these underdogs. They’ve become our final girls, even our supervillains. We give them glimpses of magic, the paranormal, of danger, horror, and something more outside the constrictions of our everyday world. The sound they heard outside was there. The UFO did appear in the sky.
Skyman gives us the unique look at the sort of person we’d otherwise overlook passing by in the street, or maybe even give a raised eyebrow or a discrete chuckle to as we noticed their peculiarities from afar. It is heartfelt, touching, and might just make you hug your sibling.
Skyman is out now in drive-in theatres and will be available on-demand July 7th. What are your thoughts on UFO flicks and the found footage format? Chat with the Nightmare on Film Street fiends on Twitter, Reddit, and in our Facebook Group!