SKYQUAKE (2015)

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: ,

Available now on Amazon Video

There are a lot of immediate images that a title like this might conjure up for potential views. After all, it sounds like a videogame or a robot that turns into a fighter jet. For most I would think it suggests that this is dumb sci-fi movie of some kind. In some ways you’d be right, but generally speaking this is not true at all. Like the storyline which is initially presented, there are many things that are not what they appear on the surface. Just how effective these mystery elements are is debatable, as are the results of reveals as things progress. But I do at least think they could have used a better title for the story.

The film opens with a white-on-black title screen over which the sound of news reports play. Mystery sounds given the name ‘skyquakes’ have been heard around the world. Whatever they might be one thing is clear, they sound like a mixture of the world’s worst orchestra and the dramatic sound that gets overused in blockbuster film trailers these days. Fortunately they avoid making this a found footage movie which I feared could happen when one of the reporters talked about video recordings of the phenomenon; this is one positive at least.

Meanwhile our hero Adam (Sandy Robson) is living alone in a house in the woods. He’s yet to hear the titular noises, but there is already plenty of cause for concern. The first act sets out his personal problems which seem to be the symptoms of a compulsive disorder, or at the very least an extreme health kick. He goes for exercise daily and subsists on just fruit and eggs, he listens to self help tapes and has a ritual that includes going over post-it notes with helpful advise written on them. Maybe this is all just a way of achieving a can-do outlook on life?

However his other habits are a bit more disturbing, and I doubt huffing the fumes from drain cleaner and listening to maniacal voices coming from the bathroom mirror are intentional results for your average detox. It’s soon clear that he doesn’t seem to be actually letting his meals digest for long, and there are odd goings on in a room full of Polaroid snapshots that hint his psyche is not exactly in the best condition.

He’s not entirely without contact from the outside world, as his food is delivered by a local delivery woman Grace (Bronwen Smith) who soon gets worried about his appearance beyond those missing eyebrows. After a couple of visits the strange sounds coming from above begin to give him nightmares while he is asleep or not, it’s soon pretty obvious that there is more going on that it first seems.

There are a lot of questions posed in the first hour or so. Sometimes it seems that otherworldly visitors are harassing Adam, sometimes it just looks like he is losing his mind. But Grace seems to have found evidence that it’s not just him, and invites herself in to show him religious websites discussing the end times. However other experiences he has are not investigated in the same way. There are spooky goings on in Adam’s kitchen sink involving his plumbing and his sharpest utensils, and a mystery caller on his phone keeps trying to talk to him about where he is and what his diet plans are. How much of this is just in his head? Just who is Grace and what are the strange lights and sinister figures he’s been seeing?

The weirdness goes on for a long time before any real plot developments come along, and while the performances are acceptable the lack of secondary characters for long stretches makes it all drag considerably. The score is pretty average despite some pretty grating sound design, and it doesn’t look too bad visually for a low budget production. Some of the special effects on the other hand are distractingly low in quality whether they are make-up or added in post. Considering what was needed to tell this story I’d have thought these kind of scenes could be cut altogether.

In the end this is all just dressing for a plot which takes too long to get going and has one too many twists during the finale. It drains their emotional impact and makes a lot of what came before feel superfluous, particularly when the focus changes away from Adam. There are plenty of clues along the way that this will be about themes of loss and grief instead of any genuine supernatural menace, but they come about half way though instead of being spread around effectively. While many sequences are dark and sinister, there is little in terms of gradual tension building. Memory and trauma are always interesting elements for a stripped down mystery narrative, but here it’s just too meandering and vague for the rushed ending to feel earned. There are plenty of other psychological thriller style releases out there more worthy of your time.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆



Mocata
About Mocata 53 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, foreign cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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