Cinematic Releases: Beyond the Sky (2018) - Reviewed

In between working as the previsualization effects artist on such major motion pictures as Terminator: Dark Fate and Deadpool 2, Fulvio Sestito made his feature film directing debut with the low budgeted indie science fiction thriller Beyond the Sky.  Like Andy Fowler’s Aliens: Zone of Silence, it’s another alien abduction flick created by a renowned visual effects artist though this one happens to feature Peter Stormare, Dee Wallace (E.T.) and even a cameo by the world’s most famous alien abductee Travis Walton whose own story was turned into the still terrifying chiller Fire in the Sky.  In the case of Beyond the Sky, half of it uses the found-footage aesthetic which is becoming more common with alien abduction movies while interspersing in a conventional narrative thriller about the tipping point when skeptics become believers.

Chris Norton (Ryan Carnes from General Hospital) is a cynical and embittered documentary filmmaker who, after his mom disappears which his father (Stormare) blames on alien abduction, is determined to assail and disprove abductees and ufologists claims of the existence of extraterrestrial life.  An angry male Scully from The X-Files of sorts, his journey of confirming his skepticism leads him towards New Mexico where a kind of group gathering for abductees to share their stories is being held.  Upon arrival he meets up with Emily Reed (Jordan Hinson), a sculptor claiming to have been abducted every seven years since her seventh birthday.  Naturally Chris scoffs at the whole thing, until one night he and his cinematographer lose time they can’t account for.

A bit more upbeat than some of the other far more nihilistic alien abduction offerings that almost always end up with the poor protagonist getting sucked into the spaceship in the end, Beyond the Sky for a microbudget effort sports remarkable visual effects (rendered by Sestito himself), interesting characters and even a measure of subversion.  Performances by Carnes and Hinson are serviceable and have good onscreen chemistry, though the real stars of this show are the industry veterans who came out of the woodwork for this film.  Composer Don Davis, best known for his work on The Matrix, makes a grand return to musical composition after a more than ten year hiatus from the film scene.  Also present is renowned film editor Richard Nord (The Fugitive), rounding out this collaborative effort as something of a film industry veteran’s family reunion.

If you’re a sucker for alien abduction flicks like me, Beyond the Sky will give you a decent two hour ride.  In the pantheon of recent low budget UFO movies, which we’ll continue to see more and more of with time, Beyond the Sky is one of the better ones.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Communion and Fire in the Sky remain the pinnacles of the subgenre but Beyond the Sky isn’t out to challenge the kidnapped-by-aliens movie throne.  Rather it’s an entertaining low budget effects driven spectacle made by one of the industry’s newest and most skillful technicians as well as offering an unusual spin on a familiar science fiction story.  Not a film that aims high but for sci-fi fans is an inspired little gem of a movie.

--Andrew Kotwicki