Fire in the Sky

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Fire in the Sky
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Lieberman
Screenplay byTracy Tormé
Based onThe Walton Experience
by Travis Walton
Produced byJoe Wizan
Todd Black
Starring
CinematographyBill Pope
Edited bySteve Mirkovich
Music byMark Isham
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 12, 1993 (1993-03-12) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$15 million[2]
Box office$19.9 million (domestic)[3]

Fire in the Sky is a 1993 American biographical science fiction mystery film directed by Robert Lieberman and adapted by Tracy Tormé. It is based on Travis Walton's book The Walton Experience,[4] which describes an extraterrestrial abduction. The film stars D. B. Sweeney as Walton, and Robert Patrick as his best friend and future brother-in-law, Mike Rogers. James Garner, Craig Sheffer, Scott MacDonald, Henry Thomas and Peter Berg also star.

Fire in the Sky grossed $19.9 million domestically on a $15 million budget and received mixed reviews. It was nominated for four Saturn Awards.

Plot[edit]

On November 5, 1975 in Snowflake, Arizona, logger Travis Walton, and his co-workers—Mike Rogers, Allan Dallis, David Whitlock, Greg Hayes and Bobby Cogdill—head to work in the White Mountains.

Driving back towards town that night, the loggers see unearthly light in the distance through the treeline. Investigating, they encounter an unidentified flying object. Curious, Walton gets out of the truck to examine closer, only for the hovering object to react and strike him with a bright beam of light, hurling him several feet backwards. Fearing Walton has been killed, the terrified loggers escape from the scene. Rogers decides to go back to the spot to retrieve Walton, but he is nowhere to be found.

Returning to town to report the incident, the loggers are met with skepticism by investigators Sheriff Blake Davis and Lieutenant Frank Watters. Watters, realizing that there was a great deal of tension between Dalis and Walton and that the boorish Dalis has a criminal record, suspects foul play, a belief that quickly spreads to the rest of the town, leaving the loggers as social outcasts.

After a large search party turns up no sign of Travis, the loggers are offered the chance to take a lie detector test. Though Dallis is initially hesitant, the loggers ultimately take the test in the hopes of proving their innocence. However, Watters declares that the tests were inconclusive and that they will have to return the next day to retake it. Rogers is outraged and he angrily declines, the other loggers following suit. The test's administrator reveals to Watters and Davis that, with the exception of Dalis (whose test results were inconclusive), the loggers seem to be telling the truth.

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 severely traumatized. 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 ends up telling Walton that he left him after he was struck by the light but came back to get him. Walton appears enraged at being left behind and turns away from Rogers who blames the whole incident on Walton for getting out of the truck. During a welcome home party, Walton suffers from a mental breakdown and flashback of the abduction by the extraterrestrials.

In his flashback, he awakens inside a slimy cocoon. Breaking out of its membrane, a bewildered Walton finds himself adrift in a zero-gravity alien environment inside a cylindrical enclosure, whose walls contain other similar cocoons. Struggling in the low gravity, he accidentally breaches a nearby cocoon, horrified to discover that it contains decomposing human remains. Exploring further, he drifts towards a neighbouring area, seeing several humanoid figures below him. Drifting uncontrollably towards them, he investigates, surmising that the immobile figures are in fact spacesuits, one of which is still occupied by an extraterrestrial creature. Walton attempts to escape, but is apprehended by two aliens who drag him down corridors full of terrestrial detritus such as shoes and keys before arriving in a examination chamber.

The aliens hold the struggling Walton to a platform in the centre of the chamber, stripping him of his clothes and covering him with an elastic material that completely restrains him. Despite Walton's terrified screams, the aliens clinically subject him to a torturous experiment in which a gelatinous substance is forced into his mouth, a tube is inserted down his throat, his jaw is locked open and a device is stabbed into his neck. Overhead equipment then begins lowering towards him. As a needle-like ocular probe extends towards his exposed eye, Walton suddenly reawakens from his flashback in a doctor's office.

While interviewing Walton, Lieutenant Watters expresses his doubts about the abduction, dismissing it as a hoax. He notes Walton's newfound celebrity because of the tabloids' attempts to profit from his tale, believing that he had faked the abduction to become a celebrity. However, with the investigation closed, Watters is forced to abandon his pursuit and leaves town. Two and a half years later, Walton visits Rogers, now a hermit, and the two reconcile. The closing titles inform that in 1993, Walton, Rogers, and Dalis were resubmitted to additional polygraph examinations, which they passed, corroborating their innocence.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Travis Walton at the 2019 International UFO Congress.
Travis Walton at the 2019 International UFO Congress.

The film is based on the book The Walton Experience by Travis Walton. In the book, Walton tells how he was abducted by aliens aboard 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 and his wife, Dana Walton, have a brief cameo in the film.

The film's alien abduction scenes bear almost no resemblance to Walton's actual claims. Scriptwriter Tracy Tormé reported that executives found Walton's account boring, and insisted on the changes.[5][page needed] Director Robert Lieberman suspected Travis Walton's account was a hoax, saying: "My gut feeling had it that Travis was so much smarter than those other guys, that it started out as a gag. They probably laced their beer at the end of the day with a little acid or something and then they put on a show for these guys and they believed it."[6]

Cast members Scott MacDonald, who played Dan Walton, and Robert Patrick, who played Mike Rogers, spent time with their counterparts. Patrick, who felt typecast in villainous roles following Terminator 2: Judgment Day, gained weight and grew a beard for the audition.[6] He later found out that he was related to his character: "Lo and behold, when I contacted the Mormons in my family, I found out through marriage, I am related to Mike Rogers. And I was like, ‘I am?!’ I called him, we spoke, I asked him specifically about how he was feeling during all this. I wanted to know his emotions. And he said to me during the abduction and the subsequent conversations afterward, that he could not control his emotion. And I tried to utilize that during the film."[6]

The special effects in the film were coordinated by Industrial Light & Magic, and the cinematography was handled by Bill Pope. The original music score was composed and arranged by Mark Isham. The audio soundtrack was released in compact disc format on March 30, 1993 by Varèse Sarabande. An expanded limited edition CD set of the soundtrack was released by La-La Land Records on March 11, 2022, followed by a cassette release by Terror Vision Records on August 19.[7][8]

Reception[edit]

Reviews for Fire in the Sky were mixed:[9] the film holds a 52% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 25 appraisals, with an average score of 5.2/10.[10]

Nonetheless, its alien abduction scenes are considered by many to be highly effective.[9] In 2017, Paste named Fire in the Sky as one of the 25 best science fiction films on Netflix.[11]

The film also had many favorable reviews.[12] John Ferguson of the Radio Times wrote, "Lieberman wisely concentrates on the emotional impact of the event on a close-knit circle of friends and family, although the eventual revelation of the abduction is genuinely scary. D. B. Sweeney shines in the lead role and there's good support."[13] Entertainment Weekly journalist Owen Gleiberman suggested that "It almost doesn't matter if you don't believe any of this stuff. For a few queasy minutes, Fire in the Sky lets you meditate on the aliens in your imagination."[14] Critic Roger Ebert said, "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." However, he felt that "there's not enough detail about the aliens, and the movie ends on an inconclusive and frustrating note."[15]

Chris Hicks of the Deseret News found that 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 disliked the film's sober tone and would have preferred it be "more humorous or satirical, without necessarily sacrificing the sense that these characters believe it all."[16] Critic James Berardinelli applauded the "stunning, gut-wrenching realism" of the abduction scenes, but called the film a "muddled-up mess" that "can't make up its mind whether it wants to be horror, drama or science-fiction."[17] The X-Files creator Chris Carter and executive producer Frank Spotnitz were impressed by Patrick's performance in the film, which led to his casting Patrick as FBI Special Agent John Doggett for the series' eighth season in 2000.[18][6]

Accolades[edit]

Fire in the Sky was nominated for four Saturn Awards: Best Science Fiction Film, Best Writing, Best Music, and for Patrick, Best Actor.[19]

See also[edit]

  • Communion, 1989 film based on Whitley Strieber's book describing experiences of alien abduction

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fire in the Sky (1993)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
  2. ^ "Fire in the Sky". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "Fire in the Sky (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
  4. ^ Walton, Travis (1997) [1978]. The Walton Experience (3rd ed.). Boston: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-1569247105.
  5. ^ Clark, Jerome. The UFO Book, Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1998.
  6. ^ a b c d Falk, Ben (July 29, 2022). "Fire in the Sky | How We Made the 1993 Alien Abduction Thriller". The Companion. Retrieved July 31, 2022.
  7. ^ "Fire in the Sky: Limited Edition". La-La Land Records. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  8. ^ "Fire in the Sky (1993) OST Cassette". Terror Vision Records. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  9. ^ a b Brownfield, Troy (November 8, 2009). "Ten alien abductions, from 'V' to 'X-Files'". Today. MSNBC.
  10. ^ Fire in the Sky from Rottentomatoes.com URL accessed February 25, 2024
  11. ^ "The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix". Paste. February 5, 2017. Archived from the original on February 19, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  12. ^ Spry, Jeff (March 16, 2018). "Fire In The Sky still a frightening flick at 25". Syfy. Archived from the original on June 17, 2018. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  13. ^ Ferguson, John. "Fire in the Sky". Radio Times. Archived from the original on June 17, 2018. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  14. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (March 26, 1993). "Fire in the Sky". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger. Fire in the Sky review, Chicago Sun Times, accessed 22 June 2007.
  16. ^ Hicks, Chris (16 March 1993). Review, Deseret News.
  17. ^ Berardinelli, James. Review, 1993.
  18. ^ Robert Patrick, All Movie Guide biography
  19. ^ Fire in the Sky - Awards

External links[edit]