Lost in the Movies: A Quick One - Fire in the Sky

A Quick One - Fire in the Sky

[As December, and with it 2008, comes to a close, let me take a moment to look back on several recently viewed (but undiscussed) movies. Each "Quick One" will be a paragraph, with the open invitation for you to keep the discussion going by leaving comments.]

I was intrigued enough by this film to want to write a full-length review. But time is short, so a quick one, my last quick one of the day/weekend/month/year, will have to do. Fire in the Sky came out in 1993 and became one of those films/TV shows (like "The X-Files") that I was obsessed with as a kid, without actually seeing. I think I wasn't allowed. Now, having finally caught up with, I have to admit I can see why. It's the ostensibly true story of a logger abducted by aliens - or so his friends say. Actually, most of the film deals with the abductee's buddies facing increasingly skeptical law officers and suspicious townsfolk. This could seem a drag of you're expecting two hours of whiz-bang sci-fi spectacle, but actually it adds an interesting human element to the story, as well as some suspense (admittedly artificial, if you know anything about this story going in). When Travis Walton finally returns, naked and barely able to speak, stranded at a gas station, we still don't know what happened. Only in the final minutes do we get a flashback - about twenty minutes of gruesome, compulsively watchable footage. The aliens look great (the first stereotypical look we get turns out to be their innocuous space suits; the real guys are, um, not pretty). And the ensuing torment Walton endures will disabuse anyone of warm and fuzzy views on interplanetary contact. However, the scene does end abruptly and one wonders if it was trimmed to avoid an R rating - regardless, it pushes the boundaries. Whether or not you believe in this sort of thing, Fire in the Sky will make you decide you never want to be abducted by aliens; it's the anti-Close Encounters and the anti-E.T. Which makes it quite the delectable irony that Henry Thomas was cast as one of the loggers though, unfortunately, not the abductee. Now that would have been the casting coup of the century.


Jason Bellamy said...

I'd love to go back and revisit this movie. Haven't seen it since its original release. It was big news at the time, because it was filmed in Oregon not far from where I grew up. A couple people at my high school are in the margins of a few scenes.

My memory is that it's a taut piece of drama/mystery at a more B level. And it seems to me that it's the kind of movie that makes you want to believe, or makes it hard to resist believing... unlike X-Files, which I'm pretty much convinced you have to be a believer (on some level) to enjoy.

Anyway, I'd forgotten about this movie. Gonna add it to my Netflix queue!

Dean Treadway said...

I totally agree with your assessment of FIRE IN THE SKY as being the anti-CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (I leave ET out of the mix, as it's a vastly different movie).

By its final 40 minutes, the viewer, perhaps expecting one thing, decidedly receives something else--something very much more horrifying than Richard Dreyfuss beeing tickled and welcolmed by alien benevolence.

Other than the now forgotten 1975 TV-movie THE UFO INCIDENT, starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons as famed alleged UFO abductees Barney and Betty Hill, no other film has so amazingly, believeably dramatized the seemingly impossible notion of being abducted by alien being as well as FIRE IN THE SKY. I think it's an underrated movie, even if it's just taken as a run-of-the-mill horror/sci-fi genre entry.

Thank for reminding the film blogosphere about this well-performed, underrated, underseen work!

Joel Bocko said...

Jason and Dean,

The movie definitely works at a genre/B level (though the budget is definitely closer to A territory, and it looks like The Matrix cribbed much of the imagery, doesn't it?)

I love the fact that the aliens are puppets. Had this been made 5-10 years later, they probably would have been CGI, and it wouldn't have been nearly as scary. I also love the fact that we first see their suits and think, slightly disappointed, oh, they look like the stereotypical aliens. But then, in a nice twist, those are only the spacesuits, the real guys are remarkably ugly little buggers. The more I think about this movie, the more I like it - I'd probably like to add it to my collection (at which point I may do a more in-depth review, perhaps delving into the backstory as well).

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