BEYOND THE SKY *** USA 2018 Dir: Fulvio Sestito. 82 mins
The recent wave of alien abduction films incorporating a found-footage / mockumentary element stretches back to theatrical releases like THE FOURTH KIND (2009), though this movie nods to the memorably harrowing FIRE IN THE SKY (1993) in its subject matter and its casting of that film’s real-life protagonist, Travis Walton, in a knowing cameo.
Whereas most of these movies delay showing their cards for as long as possible to sustain spooky post-X FILES ambiguity, this offers full-blown CGI aliens and spaceships in its first scene. It then sets up an inverted Fox Mulder character : determined documentarian Ryan Carnes is making a film to debunk the alien abduction phenomenon, but also has a Mulder-like connection to the subject: his Dad (Peter Stormare) was convinced up until his death that Mom was abducted by extra-terrestrials. With a small crew, he heads to New Mexico, attends a Roswell convention, hears familiar alien-probe stories and befriends cute abductee Jordan Hinson, who has been “taken” every seven years since turning seven…and is counting down to her 28th birthday. Director Sestito has fun with an assortment of tropes, beats and frights from the X FILES at its peak: electrical failure, alien implants, twitchy locals, conspiracies and a member of the Anasazi tribe with a close relationship to “The Old Ones”. He dabbles in layers of reality – including an archival VHS interview of Stormare’s account of his experiences – and finds time for an eccentric Dee Wallace cameo. The final act yields an emotional resolution for the hero’s backstory and a multitude of plot twists, though this kind of subject matter has always played best when delivered with a less-is-more approach. Although pacey, never boring and slickly made on a low budget, this blows its load at the very start and has to reload to blow it all again for the big finale, keeping us entertained but losing its impact along the way.
Review by Steven West