Fighting the Sky Fights for Clarity
Strange noises roar across the sky. Around the world there are trumpeting noises with no clearly defined source and they’re sparking rumors of armageddon. Meanwhile, people are appearing in random locations, brought through time and space by hideous, terrifying creatures. No, it isn’t some weird YouTube conspiracy video but the new sci-fi horror release from director Conrad Faraj. The story itself has a lot of material to unpack and I think the best way to do it is to dive right into the deep end.
Fighting the Sky follows two very different groups of people being drawn together by otherworldly phenomena. A group of collegiate paranormal investigators lead by Lorraine (Angela Cole) are tracking the source of the mysterious, trumpeting noises and making connections to a string of appearances and disappearances of people throughout time. Meanwhile, teenage Valerie (Jinnette Faraj) is focusing on UFOs and the possibility of alien contact as she, her younger sister, and a group of high school aged friends cross path with Lorraine and find that the things they’re hunting are all interconnected. Before they can do anything with the information, though, their worst fears become reality as the world becomes subject to an all out invasion.
The story of Fighting the Sky has a lot of unique and interesting points to it and consists of some ideas that blend the possible with the outlandish. Unfortunately, that’s where things hit a major bump. There are no less than four distinct mysteries brought about by the plot: mysterious appearances of time traveling abductees, thunderous noises in the sky, reptilian alien invaders, doomsday preppers who seemed too ready for this particular threat. Let’s start with the abductees.
The film starts with a man in a semi-rural area coming across a group of disheveled, almost zombie-like people wandering in the woods behind his home. When asked where they came from, they all point in unison towards the sky. As the media mentions but overlooks this story in the background of the film it comes to light that these people were kidnapped from the not so distant future by alien lizards who experimented on them and dumped them off in a time not their own. This alone is enough to build an entire story around but the film goes further down the rabbit hole linking these events to the mysterious sky sounds.
I do my best to suspend disbelief for the sake of entertainment on film. I really do. Each mystery is linked, connected to an alien invasion in 2018 that a time traveling abductee from the 2040’s seemed to have no knowledge of when asked about where he came from. There were a lot of ideas laid out in the film’s runtime but none of them felt fully developed or even coherently connected to one another and the overall plot. This in itself could be overlooked but the characters themselves felt equally underdeveloped and, in many cases, irrelevant to the narrative.
The characters in Fighting the Sky felt two dimensional, obtuse, and with few exceptions completely unnecessary. Case in point, Richard played by Matthew Ward. The character was your stereotypical chauvinist, cowardly, narcissist ex love interest. He appears at random intervals as if he is going to play some kind of important role during the film and you even get the hint that his relationship to Lorraine is going to be better explained and repaired. At the very least you hope the character is going to develop some kind of personality beyond his stock character features but ultimately he remains as flat and disconnected to the audience as everyone else in the cast.
This isn’t to say that it was bad acting. Far from it, in fact. The assembled cast was magnificent, especially the kids. It genuinely felt like a group of talented people put together without the ability to really expand upon and grow the characters they were given.
Don’t get me wrong, Fighting the Sky is not a bad movie. Far from it. There are some genuinely baffling and unfortunate problems specifically with the story and character development that I blame entirely on the writing. There were three separate movies inside this one that, had each been written as part of a series or a shared universe or simply stand alone entities would have been magnificent. But the choice was made to try and blend the three stories together and it just doesn’t work.
The cinematography and some of the cut away scenes are absolutely beautiful. In one particular scene with Lorraine and Richard, the duo is standing on an overlook in a park looking at the city skyline. The way the scene is shot capturing the characters, the city, and the tones of light and color is beautiful and fades into a deep, glistening starscape that becomes a planetarium in another location. There are several scenes like this throughout the movie that are just beautifully framed and a treat to watch.
Then there are the aliens themselves. Doing full CGI or trying to obscure as much of the creature as possible in shadow and background noise would have worked in many cases. For Fighting the Sky, however, they went old school and, as a lover of creature features, I'm happy to say I loved the aliens. The aliens are reptilian humanoids with bulging eyes, scaly skin, and clawed hands. Imagine the threeway love child of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Gorn, and a Sleestak and you’re definitely in the right neighborhood. You can tell it’s a guy in a suit but it’s a really good suit and the CGI effects added, namely the articulation of the eyes, is fantastic.
Fighting the Sky suffers from too much technical and personal story in too short a run time. It leads to sloppy dialogue, unexplained plot points, and a largely undeveloped story that should have been given more room to breathe and become its own. That said, I watched the screener twice because I wanted to see if, perhaps, the plot would make more sense to me on repeat. It did, but not enough. As a writer, I’m always most critical of the writing and narrative development when I watch a movie. Visually, the movie is at times beautiful and haunting. In certain scenes there is even a considerable amount of suspense and a couple of scares. Watch it for yourself and see what I mean.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan's stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.