Fire in the Sky (1993)
After recently watching Communion, I decided to explore the alien abduction genre a little further. There are a lot of movies based on these phenomena but most are very poor. Then I remembered Fire in the Sky from 1993; a movie that got quite a lot of publicity at the time of its release and gained a reputation for being a quality drama rather than a low budget cash-in. So I dutifully watched it to see if it warranted the minor cult status it seems to have acquired. I was pleasantly surprised to find an interesting movie with good performances that took the material in a direction I hadn't entirely expected.
Fire in the Sky is a dramatisation of Travis Walton's book "The Walton Experience". The abduction itself is not the focal point of the story until the last act. The film primarily focuses on the friendship between Travis Walton (D. B. Sweeney) and Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick) who were part of a logging crew contracted by the government. The drama arises after Walton goes missing and his friends report his "abduction" to the authorities. They instantly become the subject to a police investigation and fall under suspicion by the rest of the town. The doubt and ridicule, as well as loss of employment cause, immense strain on Rogers and his colleagues. His marriage starts to crumble as a result. However polygraph tests show that he is not lying.
Robert Patrick dominates the picture with an extremely good performance. D.B. Sweeney surprisingly has less to do despite top billing. The movie has steady direction from Robert Lieberman who maintains a level headed tone. It also captures the mid seventies surprisingly well. Veteran actor James Garner also turns in a solid performance as Lieutenant Frank Watters, who is tasked with solving the case. The production is mainly location based and gives a good sense of what it's like to live in a small town. The UFO encounter at the beginning of the film is minimalist and purposely ambiguous. It is not until the third act when Travis Walton returns after five days, that the tone of the story changes.
D.B Sweeney offers a credible interpretation of a returned abductee, playing the role like a veteran suffering from shell shock. The movie culminates with a flash back to the interior of the alleged spaceship and a subsequent examination of Walton by EBEs. These scenes are very professionally done and very creative (they also have little resemblance to what was written in Walton's book, but hey that's Hollywood for you). This sequence is genuinely shocking with a variety of metal probes and instruments being driven in to Walton's head. In some respects it feels a little out of place with the proceeding tone of the movie. However it serves to illustrate why Walton returns in such a state.
Fire in the Sky is a solid movie that does not fall in to needless sensationalism about its subject matter. The acting and script are sound, preferring to deal with the human fallout of the incident rather than wallow in the excesses of the extraterrestrial elements of the plot. It certainly doesn't attempt to answer any major questions, preferring to explore the nature of friendship under extreme circumstances. As a result it is a far better movie than you'd expect, proving that good actors with a decent script is always preferable to VFXs, bluster and noise.