FrightFest 2022 Highlights

Night Sky

Night Sky was one of the few films that I had to wait until the festival itself to catch, and I was not disappointed. It’s hard to pin down exactly why, but there’s something about Jacob Gentry’s latest project that spoke to me at a core emotional level. Some of that may be down to the fact that, to me at least, Night Sky appears to have a kinship with The Terminator. I don’t explicitly mention it in the review, but for me, the two films could be distant cousins.

Last year, director Jacob Gentry’s Broadcast Signal Intrusion was one of the most talked about films at Arrow Video FrightFest. This year, Gentry looks set to do it again with his new film, Night Sky. Starring two familiar faces of the festival, Brea Grant and AJ Bowen, Night Sky is a haunting and melancholic journey through the human condition. After an injured Oren (AJ Bowen) is helped by Annie (Brea Grant) he must help her travel cross-country. Initially unenthusiastic, he slowly begins to find Annie’s outlook on life appealing. It’s not all plain sailing though as there is a mysterious man tracking the pair…

In addition to directing, Gentry co-write the script with Bowen, co-produced and co-edited alongside Michael Jasionowski, and took on camera duties as cinematographer. On one side,  it helps the logistics of filming, on the other it gives Gentry almost complete creative control. Having one continuous voice through a host of areas helps enable full cohesion. Having so few involved creates an intimacy to the piece. It’s vital to the telling of Night Sky as it allows the viewer to feel close to Annie and Oren. 

Night Sky is a gentle and tender film, the narrative is kept simple and wholehearted. The story follows the pair’s journey but doesn’t concern itself with filling up on side stories or obstacles. It is instead focussed on two strangers with different outlooks on life coming together. Oren is hostile, jaded, and closed off. He is also a man of his word, which is the only reason he suffers through his obligation to Annie (at least to begin with). A character completely shut away from everyone and everything else, he’s an emotional hermit. Oren consistently wears a variety of sunglasses from scene to scene, placing a barrier between both himself and Annie, and himself and the viewer. Bowen conveys Oren’s non-plussed affectations perfectly and his work as Oren slowly starts to change is fantastic. 

Opposite Bowen’s – some might say mean, character – is Brea Grant’s Annie. Primarily viewed by Oren, and to some extent the viewer, as somewhat of a space cadet, there’s much more to Annie than first appears. She is full of awe and wonder about the world around her, excited to try new things, and her curiosity is contagious. She has her eccentricities, but these are what makes her who she is. Grant’s performance is sublime. Part The Fifth Element’s  Leeloo, a little bit Davie Bowie, but one hundred percent her own creation, Annie is the heart and soul of the piece. Her openness and warmth acts as the perfect foil to Oren’s cold, and as he begins to thaw, the audience also falls under her spell.  

As the title would infer, there are plenty of shots capturing the beauty, majesty, and wonder of the sky. There’s a lot of magic hour shots displayed that evoke a calming, almost serene, atmosphere. Gentry ensures that the sky has prominence even when the camera isn’t focused on it. This follows through to the interiors too; a ceiling in a motel looks like a powder blue sky with clouds painted onto it. The constant focus on the heavens above form a solid through-line for the piece. Oren and Annie may be forever moving, but the sky remains the same. It’s own character, the sky goes on its own transition, one in contrast to Oren and Annie. Whereas they draw closer and mellow, the sky becomes angrier and more foreboding. A storm during the final third is just incredibly realised. 

A truly beautiful film, the visuals that Gentry has captured for Night Sky are nothing short of stunning. It being a road movie, there is a wealth of countryside to ensnare the gaze.The locations and vistas on display are sumptuous. When projected onto the cinema screen, the viewer can almost lose themselves in the landscape presented. Gentry has flawlessly lensed Night Sky, managing to communicate an America unlike anything seen before. It’s sparse and barren, the perfect representation of Oren; yet within it grows the promise of new life, just as Oren has the potential to change. 

Jacob Gentry’s hard-work, commitment, and dedication pays off as Night Sky is a remarkably complex story. A film that pulls you under its spell and lingers long after watching, Gentry’s latest offering is a charming and evocative work. An emotionally driven slice of science-fiction, Night Sky is marinated in melancholy and bathed in beauty. 

Night Sky is awaiting UK distribution.