It was on his tenth birthday that the event which would define the life of Carl Merryweather took place, a family camping trip on which he alone was witness to the appearance of what he called “the Skyman,” though others confirmed the other phenomena often associated with what are termed “unidentified flying objects.”

The thirtieth anniversary of that date approaching, Carl wishes to return to the desert, believing that the time has come for the Skyman to make good on his promise to return; his father dead, his mother in a nursing home, his brother living in Alaska, accompanying him with different degrees of enthusiasm are his divorced sister Gina and his best friend Marcus.

Written and directed by Daniel Myrick who along with Eduardo Sánchez created The Blair Witch Project which launched the craze of the “found footage” film, Skyman is a return to that format, presented as a documentary focusing on Merryweather (Michael Selle) as he describes the profound impact of that childhood encounter and his long road to understand and reconcile it with the frustrations of his directionless life.

Opening with an introduction given by a professor of the University of Washington, the psychological reasons for the desire to believe are touched upon, our brains wired to find patterns, “to form a constellation out of random points” with the susceptibility to overreach prevalent in “a certain socioeconomic profile… they’re good people, maybe just a little lost.”

Merryweather presented as such a man, he is a hoarder of magazines and newspaper clippings, a compulsive solver of crossword puzzles, a survivalist with a shipping container in the desert prepared as a fallback position, and it is here that he believes the answers will come to him alone on his fortieth birthday, a man who has built his life around a singular belief largely unsupported by evidence.

Set in Apple Valley in San Bernardino County in Southern California, on the edge of the Mojave Desert, with soaring drone shots of the stark locations Skyman is technically of a different order than the earlier films which came to define the subgenre, yet as a poor white trash Close Encounters of the Third Kind it inevitably falls into patterns overly familiar without any need for supplementary extrapolation, any potential squandered as day follows drunken night and disappointment looms on the darkened horizon.

Sci-Fi London 2021 concluded on Sunday 13th December



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