Fire in the Sky
|Fire in the Sky|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Lieberman|
|Produced by||Joe Wizan
|Screenplay by||Tracy Tormé|
|Based on||The Walton Experience
by Travis Walton
|Starring||D. B. Sweeney
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Edited by||Steve Mirkovich|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Fire in the Sky is a 1993 science fiction horror drama film based on an alleged extraterrestrial encounter, directed by Robert Lieberman, and written by Tracy Tormé based on Travis Walton's book The Walton Experience. The film stars Robert Patrick in the leading role as Walton's best friend and future brother-in-law, Mike Rogers, and D. B. Sweeney as Walton himself. James Garner, Craig Sheffer, Scott MacDonald, Henry Thomas, and Peter Berg also star.
On November 5, 1975 in Snowflake, Arizona, logger Travis Walton (D. B. Sweeney), and his co-workers—Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick), Allan Dallis (Craig Sheffer), David Whitlock (Peter Berg), Greg Hayes (Henry Thomas) and Bobby Cogdill (Bradley Gregg)—head to work in the White Mountains.
Driving home from work, the men come across an unidentified flying object. Curious to learn more, Walton gets out of the truck and is struck by a beam of light from the object. Fearing Walton was just killed, the others flee the scene. Rogers decides to go back to the spot to retrieve Walton, but he is nowhere to be found. Making their way back to town to report the incident, the loggers are met with skepticism, as they relate what sounds like a tall tale to Sheriff Blake Davis (Noble Willingham) and Lieutenant Frank Watters (James Garner). They are suspected of foul play despite no apparent motive or knowledge of Walton's whereabouts.
After interviewing the men, Lieutenant Watters realizes there is a lot of tension between Walton and Dallis, leading him to believe this might be a murder investigation. The Lieutenant also discovers a tabloid newspaper in their truck with headlines about aliens, hinting that they used the article to concoct their story. The men are accused of murder and are threatened by Travis's brother Dan Walton (Scott MacDonald). The men are offered a lie detector test and take it. Dallis's test is inconclusive. After the testing is complete, Rogers is outraged that the results aren't shared.
Five days later, Rogers receives a call from someone claiming to be Walton. He is found at a Heber gas station, alive but naked, dehydrated, and incoherent. A Ufologist questions Walton but he is thrown out and Walton is taken to a hospital. Rogers visits Walton while in the emergency room and blames the whole incident on Walton for getting out of the truck. During a welcome home party, Walton suffers a flashback of the abduction by the extraterrestrials. In his hallucination, Walton wakes up in a cocoon. He attempts to escape but has to deal with a weightless environment. After they discover him wandering around, the aliens drag Walton to an exam room for experimentation. Stripping him to his underwear and covering him with a rubber sheet, which pins him to an examination table, the aliens subject him to an extremely painful experiment in which tubes are shoved down his throat, a sharp device is inserted into his neck, and a needle goes through his eye.
While interviewing Walton, Lieutenant Watters expresses his doubts about the abduction as merely a hoax. He notes Walton's new found celebrity because of the tabloids' attempts to profit from his tale. The film culminates with a denouement between Walton and Rogers. The closing titles state that in 1993 the loggers were resubmitted to additional polygraph examinations, which they passed, corroborating their innocence.
- D. B. Sweeney as Travis Walton
- Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers
- James Garner as Lieutenant Frank Watters
- Craig Sheffer as Allan Dallis
- Peter Berg as David Whitlock
- Henry Thomas as Greg Hayes
- Bradley Gregg as Bobby Cogdill
- Noble Willingham as Sheriff Blake Davis
- Kathleen Wilhoite as Katie Rogers
- Georgia Emelin as Dana Rogers
- Scott MacDonald as Dan Walton
The film is based on the book The Walton Experience by Travis Walton. In the book, Walton tells of how he was abducted by a UFO. Walton's original book was later re-released as Fire in the Sky (ISBN 1-56924-710-2) to promote the book's connection to the film. The real Travis Walton makes a cameo appearance in the film.
Despite mixed critical reviews upon release, Fire in the Sky has gone on to be described as a cult favorite among science fiction fans, with many praising the alien abduction scenes as being among the most well-executed in the history of film. Prominent critic Roger Ebert offered a mildly positive review, saying "The scenes inside the craft are really very good. They convincingly depict a reality I haven't seen in the movies before, and for once I did believe that I was seeing something truly alien, and not just a set decorator's daydreams." He disliked certain aspects of the film though noting, "the movie's flaw is that there's not enough detail about the aliens, and the movie ends on an inconclusive and frustrating note." Ironically, the scenes Ebert praised bear almost no resemblance to Walton's actual claims. Walton claimed to have flown the ship at the end of the "abduction" event, which was not portrayed in the film. Scriptwriter Tracy Tormé reported executives thought Walton's account was boring, and insisted on the changes. Chris Hicks of the Deseret News wrote "Fire In the Sky leans in favor of believers, suggesting that all of this really did happen. And some of it is fairly entertaining." However, he notes "the film tells its story in deadly earnest, and that is its greatest failing. Had the approach been more humorous or satirical, without necessarily sacrificing the sense that these characters believe it all — in the manner of Melvin and Howard, for example — it might be more palatable." Film critic James Berardinelli called the movie a "muddled-up mess", saying "It can't make up its mind whether it wants to be horror, drama, or science-fiction, and, consequently, succeeds as none."
Troy Brownfield of MSNBC, in a 2009 article on alien abductions in film, ranked it number seven of ten, and described the abduction scenes as "harrowing" and "genuinely frightening". Brownfield praised Torme and Lieberman's writing, saying, "Credit should go to screenwriter Tracy Torme and director Robert Lieberman, as they were called upon to punch up Walton’s original account".
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At its widest release in the U.S., the film was screened at 1,435 theaters grossing $6,116,484 in its opening weekend. The film went on to gross $19,885,552 in ticket sales through a 4-week theatrical run.
The film was initially released on LaserDisc format as well as VHS in late 1993. The LaserDisc version was offered in original widescreen. The Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on October 19, 2004. Currently, there is no set date on a future Blu-ray Disc release for the film.
- "Fire in the Sky (1993)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- "Fire in the Sky (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- Fire In The Sky from Rottentomatoes.com URL accessed 2 March 2008
- Clark, Jerome. The UFO Book, Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1998.
- Brownfield, Troy (November 8, 2009). "Ten alien abductions, from 'V' to 'X-Files'". Today. MSNBC.
- Ebert, Roger. Fire In The Sky review, Chicago Sun Times, accessed 22 June 2007.
- Hicks, Chris (16 March 1993). Review, Deseret News.
- Berardinelli, James. Review, 1993.
- Robert Patrick, All Movie Guide biography at The New York Times
- Fire in the Sky at Allmovie
- Fire in the Sky at the Internet Movie Database
- Fire in the Sky at the Movie Review Query Engine
- Fire in the Sky at Rotten Tomatoes
- Fire in the Sky at Box Office Mojo
- Last Man Standing on This American Life