A claustrophobic descent-into-madness exercise in the tradition of Polanski's "The Tenant," "The Sky Is Falling" recounts the tale of a woman who moves into a seemingly normal L.A. house and her subsequent contamination by a little girl and her mother who haunt the premises.

A claustrophobic descent-into-madness exercise in the tradition of Polanski’s “The Tenant,” “The Sky Is Falling” recounts the tale of a woman who moves into a seemingly normal L.A. house and her subsequent contamination by a little girl and her mother who haunt the premises. Pic is shot on digital video with an odd mix of a carefully thought-out visual scheme and “Dogma”-bred chromatic swings and the uneven trajectories of a hand-held camera. Successful from moment to moment at evoking dementia from banal surroundings, “Sky” ultimately fails to expand much on its initial setup. Film’s thriller atmospherics could find a niche on independent cable.

First-time director Christopher Ad Castillo (son of noted Filipino director Celso Ad Castillo) depends on repetitions and inversions (re-enacted nocturnal visitations to the same primal closet; the insistent figures of the sad, murderous little girl and a doom-prophesying preacher who pop up everywhere) to sustain the sense of foreboding, but these structural ploys begin to pale in the absence of action that might goose the proceedings out of their stubbornly somnambulistic glide.

The camera stays glued to the heroine from first frame to last. The first eight minutes obsessively follows her from the back as she enters the house and goes up the stairs, refusing all glimpses of her face even when she stops at a mirror, while the last few minutes fixate on her face as she goes down those stairs, refusing all glimpses of what she sees.

Since the protagonist interacts almost exclusively with imaginary friends and figments from the past, film musters up few surprises and absolutely no tonal variation, just an increasing blurring of reality and delusion that were not distinctly defined in the first place.

Pic showcases Castillo’s stylistic flair and his impressive behind-the-camera control of the frame. Other tech credits are good, but the music, which the largely silent action relies heavily upon, overdetermines film’s moods, veering far too sharply from a cool jazzy ambiance to a foregrounded, “spooky” dissonance.

The Sky is Falling

Production

A Catalyst Filmworks production. Produced by Christopher Ad Castillo, Abe Pagtama, Don De Leon. Directed, written by Christopher Ad Castillo.

Crew

Camera (color, digital video), Castillo; editor, Mark Bella, musical score, Greg Olivas; sound, Abe Pagtama; associate producers, Mark Bella, AJ Calomay, Norberto Reyes III. Reviewed on vidcassette at Asian American Film Festival, New York, July 17, 2002. (Also in Cinemanila Film Festival, Philippines.) Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Angelica - Joanne Verbos Gabriella/Mother - Shellee Rae Crane Little Girl - Sara Beth Toma Preacher - Jose Saenz Store Clerk - Kim Bates Voice of Psychiatrist - Greg Olivas
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