SKYQUAKE **** Canada 2015 Dir: Sandy Robson. 79 mins
Despite the clichéd “based on true events” tagline at the start, this is an effectively stripped-down mind-fuck chiller from actor / writer / director / editor Sandy Robson. He plays a paranoid, multi-phobic, bulimic loner in an isolated location who suffers recurring nightmares, hears voices telling him to “keep control” and spends most of the movie alone, wigging out in his underpants.
His only interaction is with a friendly delivery driver (Bronwen Smith), who seems to confirm his far-fetched fear of a phenomenon known as “Skyquakes”. Robson’s pitiful / creepy central performance is at the core of a movie that sustains a mesmerising ambience of unease – aided considerably by its nightmarish sound design and an experimental score (both, at times, influenced by THE X FILES, as are some of the visuals). As writer, Robson builds much intrigue around the eponymous phenomenon, suggesting various explanations from the environmental (the surrounding woodland has been fracked and deforested repeatedly) to the apocalyptic. As nervy and paranoid as its main character, it cannily taps into prominent 21st century concerns: eco-paranoia, technological alienation, fake news and mental illness (notably PTSD). The build-up so good that it’s a little disappointing when the climax opts for a Shyamalan-inspired Twist O’Rama, borrowing one key story turn from THE MACHINIST and diffusing the carefully sustained ambiguity. Still, multi-hyphenate Robson has crafted a gripping document of one man’s descent, and the final switcheroo allows for one final, suitably disquieting moment of madness.
Review by Steven West