From High Octane Pictures comes Sightings, the latest feature film by writer and director Dallas Morgan. Set in the small town of Thorndale, Texas, Sightings is a sci-fi thriller about a dysfunctional family that must come together if they want to survive the unidentified creature living in their woods. The bickering within the family and the reluctance to let go of the past is forgotten when the crushing weight of the world is replaced by something otherworldly.

 Former Sheriff, Tom Mayfield (Earl “Boo” Arnold), and his daughter, Hannah (Tahlia Morgan), are still adjusting to life after wife and mother, Lillian, walked out on them two years ago. Hannah wants nothing more than to be a journalist and to escape into her stories, while Tom gives up his position as sheriff to work the land and cuts himself off from everyone but Hannah. The big story Hannah has been waiting for falls into her lap when a grisly discovery is made on the outskirts of their property. The discovery isn’t as exciting for Tom. It has left him accused of murder, with the only alternative explanation being provided by his brother-in-law Rickey, the town conspiracy theorist.

The film has some of the normal short comings of low budget projects, but I think it handles them better than most, and is undoubtedly an above-average independent sci-fi thriller. Morgan made several smart decisions, like keeping the cast small, not showing his creature more than necessary, and using the inherent creepiness of the woods to his advantage. Unless it was just his artistic take, there are some shots that were not perfect and they didn’t have the time or money to reshoot them.

 The two leads give serviceable performances, but some of the side characters, like the brother-in-law and a deputy, give the film’s worst performances. Because those characters had the worst dialogue of the movie, it is hard to tell if it was just the performances that made them come off as awkward, or if they did their best with the material they were given. My biggest issue with the deputy is that he is not credible. He comes across as too naive to be someone that has been working in law enforcement for a number of years. Rawn Erickson who played Rickey on the other hand, gives a performance that just left me confused. Was he playing the wacky conspiracy theorist who sounds crazy because he believes everything when no one else does, or was he playing a character with an intellectual disability?

I found the movie entertaining overall. While I wouldn’t have minded a little more action, Morgan managed to work the tension in the film well enough that I didn’t get bored. The musical score of the film went unnoticed at times and came off as cheap and cliché at others. I was surprised to learn that it was an original score done by Brandon K. Verrett, who has worked on features like Priest and Drag Me to Hell. It could just be poor work, but it was certainly hampered by the budget and/or production schedule. One thing I’m sure may draw in some fans is that Akiro Nagi is played by cult hero, Dante Basco, better known as Rufio from Hook (1991). So, if you’re a huge Rufio fan, you love the show Ancient Aliens or you just want a sci-fi thriller that goes down easy and will entertain you for its 88-minute runtime, you should check out Sightings (currently available on major on-demand streaming platforms). 

by James Lindorf

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