Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Night Skies" Review

Night Skies bills itself as based on a true-story and, in a very twisted way, it is. There was in fact a whole series of unexplained lights sighted over Phoenix Arizona, ten years ago this coming March, by millions of people, virtually none of whom believed any of the official explanations (which changed four times.)

There was not, however, any reports by anybody of being stranded on an outback road and being subjected to a horrific alien abduction. Unfortunately, using the (genuine) Phoenix Lights sighting as a pretext for the (fictional) abductions shown in the movie is just about the only original idea in this movie.

But let me praise before I criticize – the movie starts out very effectively, beginning with a clip of Senator John McCain commenting on UFO’s in general and discussing the Phoenix Lights in particular. There’s also effective use of some genuine footage of the Phoenix Lights as shot by actual eyewitnesses. The lighting is very good and gives a real feeling of isolation and claustrophobia in equal parts. Marsy Blasgen’s creature effects are very good – the aliens are suitably spooky and just “grey” enough to satisfy most UFOlogist types.

The acting is as good as it can be, given the limitations of the characters. There’s only three interesting characters, Jason Connery as Richard, A.J. Cook as Lilly, and Ashley Peldon, who plays a yummy (and all-too-brief) eye-candy part as Molly. Everyone else never really develops into anything except as caricatures placed in the script to get the body count up. Even the suggestion of romance waiting to bloom between Richard and Molly is snuffed out by evil aliens, obviously disinterested in character development or the integrity of the plot line. Still, don’t think that I’m entirely discarding the actor’s performances – they’re doing their best. There’s just not much to work with.

Maybe I’m just being too critical of these particular aliens, who have none of the finesse we’ve come to expect from years of X-Files. Instead of paralyzing their victims, floating them through any barrier, into antiseptically clean examination rooms where painless procedures are performed in the name of (alien) science, these guys are a little more, shall we say, direct. These seem to be the alien equivalent of back-woods, inbred hillbilly’s busting through windows, blasting down doors, (completely leveling one structure) and grabbing their teen victims with the shocking suddenness of a Jason or Freddy.

And that’s my real problem with this move – and a minor complaint given the genre: slasher-flick. As I watched the story unfold I got a weird feeling of déjà vu – I had seen all this somewhere before. Had I been abducted by aliens, only to have the appalling memories sealed away forever?

Unfortunately, the truth is less compelling. Ideas and concepts from many, many horror films are lifted almost verbatim and thrown into the plot in a frantic fashion. You’ll recognize scenes from The Hills Have Eyes, Night of the Living Dead, Fire in the Sky, and (the most obvious of all) Carrie.

Still, if you liked the Freddy or Jason franchises, you’ll enjoy this movie. Just don’t expect a Stanton Friedman lecture!

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