Project Skyquake, the latest film from director József Gallai, opens with a voice in the darkness. The voice belongs to Andrew Derrickson (Simon Bramford), the stepfather of a student journalist named Cassie. Andrew explains that Cassie and her friend Margot have been missing for a while. They are actually one of the many people who disappeared all in the same day, an event that changed the world.
As he speaks, we see scenes of empty roads, abandoned buildings, and ominous forests and we can’t help but notice that there does not seem to be many people around. We know that something big has happened but we don’t know what yet. However, when looking at these desolate images, it’s hard not to think about what the real world has gone through over the past two years. Due to the pandemic and lockdowns, many people did literally seem to disappear. They retreated into their homes and they locked their doors and some have yet to emerge. In the early days of the Pandemic, images of empty streets and deserted buildings were a regular feature on the news and online. Some news sources even took to referring to the pre-COVID days as being the “before time,” as if the expectation was that the world would just have to accept the new normal of a empty streets and missing faces. Project Skyquake, I should make clear, is not directly a COVID film but it is a film that resonates because of what most of humanity has just been through (and what many people are currently still experiencing). At a time when many are trying to memoryhole what it was like and pretend as if it really wasn’t as bad as all that, Project Skyquake is a film that reminds us of exactly what it felt like to feel as if one was witnessing the end of the world.
We watch footage of the days leading up to the disappearance of Cassie (Laura Ellen Wilson) and her friend Margot (Laura Saxon). Cassie is fascinated by “skyquakes,” a very real phenomena in which people have reported hearing explosions and trumpets coming from the sky. As Cassie explains it, some people think that the skyquakes are UFO-realted. Some blame the government. Some say it’s a natural occurrence with a scientific explanation. Others view the skyquakes as being the sound of heavenly trumpets announcing the start of the rapture and the end of the world. Cassie explains that the skyquakes could be holes in time and we are hearing the sounds of the future.
After receiving a video from Hank (Tom Sizemore), another skyquake researcher, Cassie and Margot drive out to a location where skyquakes have frequently been reported. They’re hoping to capture the phenomena on film. Instead, they find themselves driving further and further into what appears to be a deserted forest. Of course, the forest isn’t as deserted as it may appear and Cassie and Margot soon discover the truth about the skyquakes….
Project Skyquake is an enjoyably creepy found footage film. The film makes good use of its atmospheric locations, with the forest and the things found within growing significantly more threatening with each passing moment. (The shots of the abandoned buildings and the unwelcoming wilderness reminded me a bit of Jean Rollin’s The Night of the Hunted, with its portrayal of semi-deserted and dystopian Paris.) The film does a good job of capturing the frightening and powerless feeling of being lost, both physically and mentally. Laura Ellen Wilson and Laura Saxon are both immediately sympathetic as Cassie and Margot and, even more importantly, they’re believable as lifelong friends. The viewer really does care about what is going to happen to them.
The film also does a good job of portraying the underground network of paranormal investigators and hobbyists who are convinced that there is more to the world than what can be easily seen. Along with Tom Sizemore’s Hank. we also hear from Scott Carmichael (Robert LaSardo), an expert on the phenomena, and a Professor Stokkebø (Jon Vangdal Aamaas). They are people who come from different parts of the world and different backgrounds but what they all share in common is a belief that there is more out there than we know or have been told about.
Project Skyquake is a short but effective film about a real-world phenomena. It’ll make you listen to the sky a little more carefully then next time you’re standing underneath it.
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