In 1999, horror cinema was forever changed with the groundbreaking release of The Blair Witch Project. The found-footage classic offered a refreshingly clever combination of unsettling visuals and raw dramatic performances. It seems only fitting that a couple of decades later one of the minds behind The Blair Witch would return to the genre he helped define. SKYMAN is written and directed by Daniel Myrick, one half of the directing duo who made The Blair Witch and tells the story of a man named Carl Merryweather. Carl insists that he was visited by a being he refers to as “the Skyman” when he was only ten years old. His surrounding community is skeptical of his story, and practically three decades later, Carl remains as determined as ever to prove to the world that the Skyman exists. He sets off on a quest to reunite with the being in the same location as the original sighting and documents his journey along the way.
Similar to the style of The Blair Witch, SKYMAN is told almost like a documentary – compiling news footage, interview segments, and “candid” dramatic moments to move its plot forward. The film works best when focusing on its characters, however, the natural interactions between them often feel unnatural. The Blair Witch is believable largely because of its improvised, grounded performances – but here, Myrick’s writing is at times too apparent, and the illusion begins to crack. While the performances aren’t necessarily bad, the film could have been helped by more organic-sounding dialogue, and fewer scripted sequences. It’s evident that Myrick is attempting to tell a human drama with sci-fi elements, however, the film’s pacing suffers for it, and I found myself yearning for some more extraterrestrial fun. While I applaud the effort to make fully fleshed-out characters, the film does drag a bit in places and at times feels almost home-made in terms of its quality.
Not all of SKYMAN is a disappointment, however. Myrick’s respect for the UFO community is clear, and he does a good job of humanizing those who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of finding evidence. While the UFO community is often the punchline of jokes and frequently criticized, Myrick reminds us that the members of such a community are still people underneath it all – people with families, people with real human problems and concerns. If there’s an element of SKYMAN to be considered compelling, this would be it. Myrick explores the ramifications of Carl’s claims, and the many ripples caused by such bold declarations. As the audience, we bare witness to the madness Carl invites into his life by sticking to his guns, and there’s a certain relevance to be found in the idea that we should surround ourselves with a support system that will believe in us, as opposed to dismissing us. Whether that message is intentional or not is debatable, but either way, it’s one thing SKYMAN gets right.
While Myrick occasionally utilizes UFO mythos in an effective way, I couldn’t help but feel let down overall by the film’s visuals. Many of us remember some of the strikingly terrifying imagery from The Blair Witch, and one would hope to find something equally impactful in this film. There are a couple of highlights, especially during the film’s climax – however, most of the film largely plays out like a home movie character drama, with little excitement or variety in terms of cinematography. Whereas The Blair Witch Project made the most of setting up the foreboding lore around its supernatural antagonist, SKYMAN fails to cash in fully on its potential, leaving much to be desired. Unless you yourself are a UFO enthusiast or a found-footage devout, there isn’t quite enough excitement to keep you entertained for the entire runtime. I hate to be that guy to say “it needs more aliens,” but it kinda does. What I was hoping for was a found-footage-style take on Fire In the Sky, instead, I got a human drama with extraterrestrial ingredients mixed in. This isn’t a bad thing really, but sometimes you just want what you want. If the process of hunting UFOs is what interests you, then give SKYMAN a go – but if you’re like me and you’re looking for something with a little more speed, you may find yourself let down. I give SKYMAN two flying saucers out of five. SKYMAN will open in Drive-In Theaters June 30th and will be available On Demand July 7th.