Night Skies review by Mike Long

My wife and I are both full-blown Generation X'ers and we were recently discussing the oddities which were popular when we were growing up. Throughout the 70s, you couldn't turn around without being confronted with a story about UFOs, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, or some other kind of unexplained phenomenon. Yet, in our post The X-Files society, we really don't see much of this any more. That's why I was excited about seeing Night Skies, a movie which focuses on a UFO encounter. After watching it, I now have an idea as to why we don't see these movies anymore.

Night Skies is based on true events which occurred on March 13, 1997. On that date, many witnessed strange lights in the sky over the southwestern United States. As our story opens, we are introduced to five people who are traveling the Nevada backroads in an RV. Matt (George Stults) restored the RV and is the driver. He's with his fiancee, Lilly (A.J. Cook) and his sister, Molly (Ashley Peldon). Also along for the trip is Joe (Joseph Sikora) and his wife, June (Gwendoline Yeo). The group is on the way to Las Vegas and Matt has decided to follow little-known roads which he's found on an ancient map. As the night wears on, and everyone is convinced that they are lost, tempers flare.

Suddenly, a group of mysterious lights appear in the sky. Distracted by the anomaly, Matt doesn't see a truck parked on the side of the road and there's an accident -- Joe is severely injured. The driver of the truck, Richard (Jason Connery), is an ex-soldier who has some medical training and he's able to attend to Joe. But now the group has a new problem -- both the truck and the RV won't run. As the travelers and the newcomer debate and argue about what to do, they realize that they are no longer alone in the area and members of the party then begin to disappear.

Night Skies is a low-budget oddity and yet another one of those films that make me ask, "How did Sony get involved with this?" If I'm drawn into a film, I rarely notice cost-cutting measures (unless they are blatant), but it's difficult to not realize that the filmmakers behind Night Skies are doing anything that they can to keep the action inside of the RV. During the first 1/3 of the film, there are some exterior establishing shots of the RV traveling down the road, but what we mostly get are scenes set inside the RV or the "poor-man's process" giving the illusion that the RV is moving. Even after the wreck occurs, the characters spend a great deal of time inside of the RV. Thus, Night Skies is sort of a "Spam in a cabin" movie, except the cabin is moving.

The predominant use of this once location is either a function of the script by Eric Miller or it forces most of the action to occur in one place -- I can't tell which. Either way, the story is very limited. What we essentially have is a group of people who bicker and hide secrets from one another. Once the accident occurs, they then turn their focus on this new dilemma...and continue to argue. Then suddenly, this drama turns into a sci-fi/horror film as the group is besieged by a group of aliens. Where did this come from? Yes, the lights in the sky implied that something otherworldly was happening, but the aliens (who are your standard grey "Communion" aliens, wearing metallic suits) come out of nowhere and begin to pick off the group one-by-one. So, the movie which focused on group in-fighting sudden becomes a thriller, as the group is trapped inside the RV and have no idea when or where the aliens will strike next. The movie then takes another turn during the finale. I don't want to give away too much, but the last scenes are a rip-off of Fire in the Sky, except they are far more graphic and the special effects are far less impressive. In fact, these scenes are bloody and will certainly turn off anyone who tuned into Night Skies hoping for a straight-forward UFO movie.

If you can't tell already, I'll go ahead and say it: Night Skies is a mess. The genre-shifts in the film were probably meant to be shocking, but they just make the film confusing and annoying. The bulk of the movie is just too talky and the only likeable character is Lilly. When the alien attack begins, most viewers will be far beyond caring what happens to this group. And as for the finale...well, it feels as if it came out of another movie. What do you call a UFO film which actually doesn't have a UFO? Something to be avoided, that's what.

Night Skies flies onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is somewhat sharp and clear, but it does show some problems. I don't have any info on the technical specs for the film, but it looks as if it was shot on 16mm film. The image is somewhat dark throughout and there is notable grain on the image. The colors look good, but the picture is also slightly washed-out at times. Artifacting is also noticeable in some shots. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Some creative sound design went into this mix, especially when the aliens are outside of the RV, but the bass response isn't very impressive.

There are no extras on this DVD.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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