Directed by Daniel Myrick
Written by Daniel Myrick
Starring Michael Selle, Nicolette Sweeney, Faleolo Alailima
No matter what you believe, some cases of UFO encounters are just too unsettling to ignore. There’s the Betty and Barney Hill case back in September of 1961 where the couple claimed that a massive craft followed them in their 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, bouncing strange signals off of the automobile causing them to lose consciousness and suffer loss of memory after they returned home. The Hill’s were an upstanding couple and their account was highly detailed, but the Trent Farm event in 1950 is probably more famous because of the McMinnville photographs of a mysterious, saucer-like ship hovering over the countryside.
Director Daniel Myrick has always had a fascination with these stories, and his new sci-fi film Skyman incorporates these historically important encounters and interweaves them with a new account – the abduction of Carl Merryweather. A seemingly stable, honest blue-collar family, the Merryweathers were survivalists who wanted to live off the grid in the Southern California desert. Carl’s father became increasingly obsessed with their remote lifestyle, eventually bringing the family out to a secluded bunker where Carl began to have visions of an extraterrestrial visiting him as a child. At the age of ten, Carl was visited by a mushroom-headed, lanky human-shaped being communicating with him telepathically. After the encounter, Carl could not stop making drawings of the visitor, eventually calling him the “Skyman.”
Myrick’s mockumentary catches up with Carl (Selle) thirty years later, documenting his obsession with his missing father. A film crew he hired follows Carl’s preparations for a second visit from the “Skyman” on his fortieth birthday. Luckily, his sister Gina (Sweeney) and his best friend Marcus (Alailima) agree to come with him as witnesses. Once they return to the family bunker and rig the area for surveillance, they all begin to experience strange phenomena that could signal ominous signs from above.
Anyone familiar with Joshua Tree and the surrounding area may recognize a couple of famous landmarks that Carl and his team visit on the way to their own private close encounter, namely the Integratron structure and one of the largest boulders in the world located about a mile away. Built over a magnetic anomaly, the Integratron itself has been a famous spot for Ufologists that have made the pilgrimage over the years. The Trent Farm is also visited while Carl plays the part of a kind of cosmic tour guide. By incorporating real locations that are meaningful to true believers and UFO club members from all over the globe, Myrick and actor Michael Hesse make Carl’s story a part of a much larger narrative. Adding those levels of authenticity gives Carl’s story of the “Skyman” a lot more weight and legitimacy.
Filming also occurs at an actual UFO Convention in Roswell, New Mexico which winds up being some of the more interesting footage in Skyman, showing the eccentric attendees and special guests that inhabit this long-lasting fandom that’s a lot larger than you might have guessed. Some scenes featuring subtle easter eggs to films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and references to numerology and Nordic Rune letters should also keep you engrossed until the, admittedly, tame and somewhat lackluster finale. The popular notion that owls are messengers and serve as some kind of “inner-dimensional scouts” is explored in a particularly creepy scene that’s definitely a standout.
And for Smashing Pumpkins fans, Billy Corgan – a believer himself – offers a few songs to the soundtrack and overall score that serve their purpose even if they don’t feel completely flushed out. The score does compliment the incomplete state that Carl himself seems to exist in since being haunted by his childhood abduction.
Through the mystery of magnets and compelling accounts of real-life encounters with something we still don’t fully understand, Myrick’s passion for this subject does come through in Skyman even if the limits of the film don’t afford his imagination to truly take off. Even though this is largely a character study about someone who at least thinks he’s experienced something out of this world, it’s still building to an expectation of some kind of conflict or resolution that turns out to not be satisfying in any cathartic way. Sometimes without the visual effects, there’s no emotional effect. Skyman‘s success, however, lies in its glorification of all the believers out there that remind us to stay curious.
Skyman is opening in Drive-in theaters June 30th and is available On Demand July 7th.
Skyman definitely reignites that sense of cosmic wonder you may have felt while pondering the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe, but the encounter itself isn’t particularly awe-inspiring.