When somebody says “Syfy channel movie”, it conjures images of cheap production values, laughable effects, and a completely ridiculous premise. Mind you, none of those things are necessarily bad, as they have lower budgets, the production value can be overlooked, and as long as the effects are utilized well, the budgetary constraints shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Plus of course, the ridiculousness is what fans of these sorts of movies want. So, when it is stated that Dallas Morgan’s new genre flick, Sightings, has all the best traits of that kind of motion picture while being a fantastic character study, it is meant as a high compliment.
“… gimmicky style of a z-grade monster movie to illuminate on what makes or breaks a family…”
Morgan wrote and directed the movie, and his passion for this story and these characters shines through every single scene. Morgan knows that the built-in audience for these modern schlockfests expects a certain amount of oddness that isn’t going to be in a major studio’s tentpole release. The plotting delivers there, with some unexpected twists and a premise that tops itself often with even wilder ideas. But he is smart enough to understand that that same audience will only come back for a rewatch, or spread the word to friends if there is something tangible to relate to and root for. The familial bonds between Tom (Boo Arnold) and his daughter, Hannah (Tahlia Morgan) are believable and the strains the situation they are facing put on them is realistic and heartfelt. Using the word ‘realistic’ in a review for a movie about alien sasquatches who kidnap O-Negative blood types might seem very strange, but that is the beauty of this movie. While the situation, and the mystery surrounding why this is happening, is patently absurd, the characters have rich and detailed backstories, allowing for the audience to empathize with them and understand everyone’s point of views.
Directing-wise, the movie is nothing too fancy, but the sasquatch point-of-view shots provide an interesting visual contrast to the point and shoot of much of the rest of the movie. That isn’t to imply Sightings is dull visually, because the editing is sublime, ratcheting up the tension, even during conversation heavy scenes. The natural beauty of the wooded areas surrounding the main ranch is used to great effect to isolate and alienate both the characters and the audience.
The acting from all, but especially Tahlia Morgan, is impressive. They sell the ridiculous scenario to a credible degree, and they do seem like a tight-knit group that has known each other forever; which is harder to pull off than you’d think. Plus, there’s a fun cameo from freaking Rufio himself, Dante Basco! He is always a pleasure to see on screen.
“…strong characterizations and a solid mystery…”
Please be advised, that the alien is never shown onscreen. Given the usual goofy elements of an Asylum Studio’s flick (a la Mega Python Vs Gatoroid), the monster action is what makes those so engaging. Thanks to strong characterizations and a solid mystery, that isn’t really the case here. But it is a bit disappointing that there isn’t one glance at the end. This is a minor issue, save for a select few die-hard creature feature fans, that could be a dealbreaker.
Dallas Morgan’s first full-length movie uses the gimmicky style of a Z-grade monster movie to illuminate on what makes or breaks a family. It does so with strong acting, excellent characters, and an original premise. For those that don’t mind seeing the creature, or for those looking for something off the beaten path, this is a must-see.
Sightings (2017) Directed by Dallas Morgan. Written by Dallas Morgan. Starring Boo Arnold, Tahlia Morgan, Kevin Sizemore, Dante Basco, Stephanie Drapeau.