“I told you chuckleheads this story was never gonna work.”
Based on the novel “The Walton Experience” by Travis Walton, Fire in the Sky is the 1993 film that dramatizes the events of a fateful evening during which a man was seemingly abducted by aliens. On November 5, 1975 after a long day spent clearing a forested area of the White Mountains in Northeastern Arizona, a crew of six men were captivated by a intense red light just over the ridge. Curious, the men draw nearer to the light until they see, what they describe to be, an unidentifiable craft from which the light emanates. Travis (played by D.B. Sweeney) steps free from his best friend’s, Mike (Robert Patrick), truck to get a closer look at the craft and the light. When a bolt of light is shot from the craft it knocks Travis off his feet, throwing him several feet away. Convinced Travis has just been killed, his friends and coworkers flee in the Mike’s truck.
Scared, guilty, and suddenly aware he’s just left his best friend for dead in the woods, alone, Mike tells the other guys to get out of the truck. He’s going back. Only, when he gets there, Travis is nowhere to be found.
Terrified, the men head back into town where they recount the story to the local authorities, including Frank Watters (James Garner) who is, himself, a moderately (in)famous law enforcement agent. Suspicions swirl and accusations of foul play begin to permeate the small town of Snowflake, AZ.
What exactly did happen on the night of November 5th, 1975? Was Travis Walton truly abducted by aliens, or did he become a victim of foul play?
Five days later, after the town has turned it’s back on Mike and the rest of his crew, Travis reappears. Naked, confused, dehydrated and starving, Travis finds his way to a gas station where he places a collect call to Mike. With Travis alive, the authorities back off the men, but all does not simply go back to the way it was.
Travis, who is barely able to speak, has no immediate recollection of where he’s been or what he’s done. Watters suggests that maybe the event was perpetrated as some kind of attention-grabbing hoax, potentially in an attempt to make money off of selling the story to the tabloids.
Slowly, as Travis begins to attempt to reassimilate into his life, violent and terrifying images plague his waking hours. He sees strange corridors, bright lights. It’s clear he has undergone intense trauma, but from what? Finally, his ordeal is revealed to us through a horrific sequence involving low gravity, a craft, unknown beings, and positively grotesque “experiments”.
The brilliance of Fire in the Sky is in the adaptation from novel to screenplay, and the credit lies with science fiction writer Tracy Tormé. From the beginning when the confusion of Mike and his crew is the audience’s confusion, as if we have been pushed head long into a dark secret and an even juicier mystery, to the well executed alien experimentation scenes that even Roger Ebert praised by saying of them “…for once I did believe that I was seeing something truly alien.”
It is these scenes, which comprise so little of the film’s screen time, that filmgoers recall when Fire in the Sky is mentioned in conversation. They are so insidious, so horrifying that the images remain with you long after seeing the film. In this, the filmmakers truly achieved something transcendent.
Among the best alien/UFO films yet made, Fire in the Sky will captivate your imagination, pierce through the veil of your perceived safety, and raise questions. While, ultimately, you may exit the experience feeling not completely satisfied, Fire in the Sky is wholly worth the watch.
Wiki facts: Fire in the Sky
Rotten or Fresh: 54%
Watch/buy Fire in the Sky online: Amazon
Buy the book that started it all: The Walton Experience
How much $$ did it make? Box Office Mojo