József Gallai and Gergö Elekes’ ‘Project Skyquake’ (2022) – Movie Review

Anyone who’s read my review of József Gallai and Gergö Elekes’ 2022 film, I Hear The Trees Whispering, knows how much I loved it. The unique first person POV, the creepy, dim forest in every direction, the main character’s struggle to process what happened to his wife and daughter, and the jaw-dropping twist at the end completely blew my mind. I thought about that film and the worlds it opened up for me for days afterwards.

So when József asked if I’d like to review their newest film, Project Skyquake, I jumped at the chance. Not only is this another project from two now beloved filmmakers, I found out this drama, mystery, sci-fi, horror thriller was about those weird noises in the sky that people all over the world have heard but no one has been able to explain. I’ve been fascinated with these since I first heard about them a few years ago. As of this writing, scientists have no idea what causes these clamors or where they come from. They have been described as sounding like the blare of a trumpet, a groaning metallic sound, an airplane engine, a loud rumbling, and even humming. If anything out there deserves its own horror story, it’s this mystery. And József Gallai and Gergö Elekes are here to tell it.

Check out the video below for some examples of skyquakes and what they sound like.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way these things could be real. Those astronomical sounds they’re hearing must be either faked or have some natural/manmade resolution, right? I’m sure some—or even most—of them can be explained away. But there must have been something that happened to start this whole thing. Plus, they happen all over the world. How do you explain hearing the same unearthly, earthshattering sound in Hungary as you do in New Jersey? What about the way the ground trembles with many of the intonations? What is churning or rubbing together to make such a cacophony? But I digress.

According to IMDb, most of the script was improvised by the actors, although a basic storyline was established by Gallai. As if the tale itself isn’t scary enough, the shooting in Hungary happened almost at the same time as Russia launching military attacks on Ukraine, and the bombs were going off only about a thousand kilometers from the filming locations.

Synopsis:

After strange trumpet-like sounds in the sky have been reported at locations around the world, a wannabe journalist sets out to investigate with her best friend, but they soon find themselves facing an encounter with terrifying results.

Project Skyquake was directed by Hungarian filmmaker József Gallai (A Guide To Killing Your Ex 2021) and co-written by Gallai, Laura Saxon, and Laura Ellen Wilson (With Child 2021), both of whom starred I Hear The Trees Whispering. Co-starring along with the two Lauras are Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers – our retro review, Atomica 2017 – our review), Robert LaSardo (Bloodthirst 2021 – our review, Nightblade 2016 – our review), Hellraiser’s Simon Bamford (our interview), Jon Vangdal Aamaas (I Hear The Trees Whispering 2022), and Shawn Michael Clankie (The Poltergeist Diaries 2021). Both Gallai and Gergö Elekes have small parts as cultist monks and act as producers and cinematographers for the film. Elekes scored and edited the film as well. Neil Rowe (I Hear The Trees Whispering 2022) was in charge of visual effects.

What Works

Project Skyquake follows two women, wannabe reporter Cassie (Laura Ellen Wilson), and her friend, Margot (Laura Saxon), as they take a road trip through Hungary to try and solve the mystery of these eerie sounds. Before the story starts, we get a prequel tape recording of a man lamenting the loss of his stepdaughter, Cassie, so you know this is going to end badly.

The film is mostly dialogue-driven, something I also appreciated in I Hear The Trees Whispering. Listening to the women talk is like being a fly on the wall. We get to hear their goals, frustrations, and terror in what feels like real time as they film themselves. They both even mention having lost their fathers in mysterious circumstances that seem to relate to the skyquake noises. This running dialogue is interspersed with telephone calls, video logs, radio voices, and tape recordings of other people, giving the girls—and the audience—clarity on their situation but also open up so many more questions.

The visuals in Project Skyquake are stunning. At first glance, you may think you’re just looking at a thunderstorm, but then the unearthly noises, light flashes, and rolling, bulging clouds trigger an unnatural terror in your mind, and you realize that this is no ordinary weather. It’s so simple yet so effective. The whole film gives off a Blair Witch Project vibe, and in the best way possible. Out of the rather mundane scenery comes images all the more shocking because of their seemingly random placement. The camera acts like an eye that can’t make itself focus on the horror before it, a frustration that adds to the tension and believability of the scene. And I have to admit that those tiny animal skulls with the deer antlers made me all sorts of uncomfortable.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will admit that the filmmakers’ explanation for the sounds is one I’ve never considered before. And, in the time we’re living, this reasoning is the one that makes the most sense to me. Although it’s not really clear if this exposition given by the film’s survivors is the correct one or if this is just what they assume is happening—especially after watching the last scene with Cassie and Margot—I do find myself agreeing with it more and more. It checks a lot of boxes for me.

What Doesn’t Work

There is very little in Project Skyquake that didn’t resonate with me. However, the lack of blood on the recently killed cult members made me cock an eyebrow rather than settle into more unreality. I also couldn’t understand why some people were effected by the skyquakes while others merely witnessed them and then went on with their days, only to be triggered later on. Again, these are only minor nitpicks and did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the film.

Final Thoughts

Filmmakers József Gallai and Gergö Elekes have blown it out of the water once again. They came up with yet another mind twist of a film that pulled me in the minute I started watching it. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you loved I Hear The Trees Whispering or you’re as obsessed with skyquakes as I am.

 

About Tracy Allen

As the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of PopHorror.com, Tracy has learned a lot about independent horror films and the people who love them. Now an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes, she hopes the masses will follow her reviews back to PopHorror and learn more about the creativity and uniqueness of indie horror movies.

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