Reports of alien visitations have been a source of fascination for believers in extraterrestrial life here on Earth for decades. But what if those fringe people who had dedicated their lives to proving the existence of alien life were right and the rest of us had to deal with the consequences? Such is the journey of our heroes in Fighting The Sky, a new sci-fi film from writer-director, Conrad Faraj and High Octane Pictures.
Alien invasion films have never been my favorite science fiction sub-genre, even on the blockbuster scale. The Independence Day films were flashy messes that not even Jeff Goldbum could save, though recently films like A Quiet Place and Annihilation have made the invasion more personal. So I was curious to see what form this alien drama by Faraj would take.
Plot: 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.
For his lead, Faraj has found an able and engaging actress in Angela Cole, who seems to evoke the best qualities of Cameron Diaz and Kristin Chenoweth, though the film requires no singing. Instead Cole finds herself positioned as the leader of a rag tag group of UFO hunters who has gone AWOL after a death in the family. Cole as Lorraine immediately draws in the viewer when she enters a scene, but unfortunately the writing of multiple melodramatic monologues where the character grapples with her grief fall flat and stall the film on the multiple occasions.
Much better utilized is the young suburban adventurer, Valerie played by the director’s daughter, Jinette Faraj. Nepotism aside, the scenes where Valerie is dealing with the fear of an invasion that no adult will acknowledge ring more true than any other scenarios in the film. Additionally, the actress conveys a sincere feeling of foreboding, which provides what little tension the film contains.
It was refreshing to have an alien invasion film that features no dogfights in the sky or hundreds of CGI creatures littering the screen, instead Fighting The Sky opts to spend more time with our cast of characters and their reactions to the occasional abduction or being stalked by green lights. That being said, much of the film feels like it was improvised to fill out the run time.
Lorraine’s ever growing group of UFO enthusiasts are constantly talking over one another while running from invading alien forces or barricading themselves in a house for safety, while simultaneously being drowned out by the musical score, which is incredibly loud as presented in the final audio mix of the film and very distracting.
Shouting above the score most often is the character of Roy played by Roger Conners, who is a dead ringer for Bobcat Goldthwaite circa 1987. If the rumored Police Academy reboot ever gets off the ground, Conners should be first in line to play the new Zed. As he plays in the film I’m not sure if Conners’ Roy is supposed to be a ridiculous character or the co-lead with Cole, as the two always seem to be vying for control of the group’s next course of action with Roy taking the hero role way too seriously.
Adding further to the confusion is the fact that the main cast of 12 survivors are largely undefined in any way. Each member of the group becomes merely another body on screen to create motion, not even adding to the action by becoming victims of the attacks. The film could certainly have benefited from streamlining the group to a cast of core characters with actual motivations for fighting back against the out of this world antagonists.
It’s amazing to say for an independent picture that the special effects are the real high point of the film. Though used sparingly, there are several shots of well designed flying saucers that look like they actually inhabited the airspace above the practical shooting locations on the day of filming. One particularly clever use of CGI is showing the spacecraft appearing in the reflection of car windows as our protagonists try to outrun the invaders.
Most impressive is that Faraj managed to round up at least 100 extras that appear in multiple scenes, truly giving the world of the film a larger scope and the illusion of production value. It’s a wise choice by a director to invest in this type of human set dressing as it truly sets the Fighting The Sky apart from other indie science fiction films.
This is most apparent in the film’s crowning achievement, a frantic car chase through a downtown area where screaming mobs fill the screen and well placed CGI explosions caused by the pursuing UFO are dodged by the vehicle. If the rest of the film could have matched the impressively paced intensity of this sequence, there might be more to talk about.
There is however one more effects achievement that deserves it’s moment in the spotlight, that may in fact be the impetus for the film going into production. The creature suit designed for the Alien (yes, we see only one in Fighting the Sky) is on par with any Hollywood production. Wisely featured in scenes with dim lighting, this slick Sleestack from space manages to create a sense of wonder when it appears on screen, with the performer inside providing an reptilian movement that adds to its horrific nature.
There is surprise ending to Fighting the Sky that plays well into a mystery that is set-up, though not heavily discussed throughout the majority of the film. This is another case of impressive production design and costumed extras that gives the scene a big budget feel and delivers a dramatic sting for the movie’s final moments.
In the end, Fighting The Sky is comprised of 2 effective scenes of alien invasion mayhem and a lot of people wandering around the screen looking lost. Even if the entire film is not a masterpiece from a narrative perspective, I do have to say that amongst the independent films I’ve reviewed for Popgeeks with alien overtones, the effects work on this one was in the top tier. So if you’re looking to give your indie sci-fi tale a visual kick, keep Corey McCauley, Alessandro Schiassi and Abhimanyu Tanwar in mind.
Fighting The Sky is available now on DVD and Digital Streaming from High Octane Pictures.