Although I’m a major horror fan, and although I’m always on the lookout for great scary movies I haven’t seen yet, I really wish people would shut the hell up about alien abduction movies. Perhaps this is an unpopular opinion, but for the longest time I refused to believe there’s such a thing as an alien abduction film that’s actually scary. Sometimes they’re beautiful to look at, and sometimes they’re suspenseful, but they’re rarely scary.
And then my friend Trevor told me about Robert Lieberman's 1993 film Fire in the Sky. It’s a movie that’s flown completely under my radar until recently, which is a shame—it’s successfully changed my beliefs about what an alien abduction film can be.
The movie is based on the book The Walton Experience, an allegedly non-fiction account of alien abduction in 1978. Just like in the book, a group of friends sees a bright light in the sky and decides to take a closer look, but one of them leaves the safety of their vehicle and goes in for a closer look, which leads to this person’s abduction and the subsequent murder accusations facing his friends.
The first two-thirds of Fire in the Sky are extremely slow, and it’s really more of a courtroom drama with a batch of characters suffering from bad characterization. However, the final third or so is worth slogging through the rest of the movie, and I admittedly found the climax of the movie downright terrifying. Think back to your high school days when you had to dissect a frog…and now picture yourself as the frog. That’s what alien abduction seems to be in the world of this movie.
For as great as the movie’s third act was, the rest of it was forgettable. The dialogue was especially mediocre, and even with a cast of passable actors, the script felt meandering and lazy.
As far as set design goes, the movie is absolutely golden in the way it presents the inside of an alien ship. It’s not the tidy and crisp setting we may imagine, nor is it filled with harsh white lights and little green men standing around waiting for their walk-on role in "South Park." Rather, it’s as messy as a teenage boy’s bedroom, and there’s shit laying all over the place: tools dripping with human blood, the cut-up remains of previous victims, and various bits of litter and detritus collected from Earth like souvenirs from a foreign country.
For some reason, I found this to be relatively disturbing. After all, when we think about life on other planets, we tend to put aliens on a pedestal as advanced creatures from a highly sophisticated society. Presenting aliens as intergalactic white trash is terrifying, especially if they’re abducting and preserving humans simply for sport, the way a child might catch fireflies.
Overall, I don’t think I’ll ever watch Fire in the Sky again, simply because I found most of the movie to be lame. But the movie’s presentation of aliens is its saving grace, and I have to give credit where it’s due. Those bug-eyed motherfuckers really scared me, and I had to discard my soiled underpants.
Come for the mediocre courtroom drama, stay for the kinky alien butt stuff.
In other news, Imprint will be bringing Fire in the Sky to Blu-ray for the first time ever this December.
Throughout the month of October, I’ll be reviewing 31 movies I’ve never seen before. Is there an excellent movie you think I haven’t seen? Tell me in the comments below, and I’ll check it out!