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Almost 27 years ago In 1993, Fire in the Sky was a film released that told the real story of a real man by the name of Travis Walton, a man who was then 22 years old and claimed to have been abducted by aliens while on a logging job in 1975. The film didn’t perform well at the box office and didn’t make any impact in a year that dominated by blockbuster hits like Jurassic Park and The Nightmare Before Christmas, it does tell an emotionally moving story about the effects of trauma in relation to the unexplainable.
Fire in the Sky is remembered by most viewers for the disturbing scenes of Travis Walton’s operation in the hands of his abductors, who are aliens, but the film is more than that. Its a work of practical effects and character actors committed to their craft, this movie deserves to be seen by a new crop of fans eager for tales of UFOs and supposedly true stories of alien abduction.
Allegedly The Film Is Based On The Real Life Experiences Of Travis Walton
It is much more than just another ‘90s sci-fi movie, there are plenty of those. Fire in the Sky is different in that it draws upon the real story of Travis Walton and his alleged alien abduction. In 1975, Walton disappeared from Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and his logging co-workers claimed that a silvery disc zapped him into the sky in a beam of light. How’s that for an alien abduction story? Your normie co-workers aren’t going to make something up out of thin air after you go missing.
After the abduction and returning to Arizona, Walton wrote a book entitled The Walton Experience to explain where he was during his five-day disappearance.
After claiming that he was abducted by aliens, he actually passed a polygraph test and has never changed his story.
The psychological effects of his abduction and the way it affected his friends and family make for an intense and dramatic film.
The Film Is Shown From The Perspective Of Walton’s Friends
There’s a moment during the abduction sequence when the movie goes from being a strange day in the life of some lumberjacks to a very real portrayal of what it’s like to lose a friend. Watch the trailer here:
Walton and his friends from work see a red light and wonder what it is, thinking it’s a crashed plane they drive in its direction. Instead, it’s a crashed ship. Walton gets out and decides on checking it out. Things take a turn south when the ship powers on.
In the scene Walton looks like he’s been hit by lightning and his friends call for him to come back to the truck will not move. It genuinely feels like what would happen if someone were abducted by aliens. Electrical equipment nearby is disabled.
The Sequences Where Walton Aboards The Ship Are Quite Disturbing
In one sequence in the film, Walton wakes to find himself encased in a gooey pod inside of a cavernous ship. He then falls from the pod to find himself suspended in something like zero gravity chamber before he crashes through another pod to find the decaying remains of another abducted person.
The image is seriously shocking and way more intense than any other film scenes being released at the time. Watch it here:
If you’re a fan of David Lynch and Terry Gilliam, this is your kind of film.
The Aliens Look Way Creepier in The Film Than You’d Expect
As Travis Walton finds himself on board this strange alien vessel, he does his best to sneak around the ship without going noticed. He tries to get his motorcycle key, he’s surrounded by a group of aliens and promptly put on an examination table where he’s wrapped in a skin-tight wrap and has his mouth pried open and a then a needle shoved in his eye. It’s absolutely terrifying. The creepiest part of the whole scene might be the extremely real lifelike aliens.
Speaking to American Cinematographer about the design of the aliens, visual effects producer Clint Goldman explained:
The idea behind the aliens was a deteriorated human presence – dwarf humans who were thin and who obviously couldn’t be men in suits. We purposely made their spines, necks and appendages very thin and emaciated. For this particular design, ILM art director Mark Moore used real photographs which he altered on the computer, using Adobe’s Photoshop software on the Macintosh to add highlights and textures.
It’s An Interesting Story About Paranoia And Small-Town Skepticism
Fire in the Sky is an alien abduction story, but the real narrative is about Walton’s friends and the way they deal with their skepticism around the claims of extraterrestrials. No one believes them, and their own friends and family think that these guys, the co-workers took Walton’s life and covered it up. What a predicament that would be to explain.
It’s a fascinating look at how paranoia can turn people against one another.
Henry Thomas Of ‘E.T.’ Fame Appears
Today, Henry Thomas is a well-known character actor who’s appeared in blockbuster films such as The Gangs of New York and The Haunting of Hill House, but in 1993, he was just the kid from E.T. who was growing into adulthood. His casting in Fire in the Sky is one of the smartest things that the film does.
The casting of Thomas put his character at emotional odds with his most famously known role. Spielberg’s film is all about the wonder and magic of alien encounters, while this film focuses much more on terror and trauma. Thomas is more of a supporting character in this film, but his expressive face and crooked smile help alleviate the tension in some of the film’s most nerve gripping scenes.
It’s A Rich Cast of Popular ’90s Character Actors That Makes it Awesome And An Enjoyable Flashback in Many Ways..
If you watch enough movies from the ‘90s, you’ll see the actors from Fire in the Sky over and over. You may not know their names but you’ll recognize them as crucial actors in some of your favorite 90’s films.
The cast includes Robert Patrick, D.B. Sweeney, James Garner, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, and Kathleen Wilhoite all add to the rich tapestry of the movie and help make the movie more genuinely compelling.
The Town Feels Like A Real Place
To bring that small town intrigue of Fire in the Sky to life, the filmmakers built a set with a world that feels like anyone can pass through. Because it’s based on a true story, there’s a lot to draw from for the film, the director Robert Lieberman uses a real town and its surrounding wooded area to double as the small Arizona community where Walton was taken.
The film’s greatest connected asset is the cinematographer Bill Pope, who was behind the camera for amazing genre films like Darkman, Army of Darkness, and The Matrix trilogy. Pope captures the vastness of Arizona in every scene outside of the alien ship, and when the film catches up with Walton after his abduction, there’s an unmatched cold, claustrophobic nature to the scenes.
The Script Was Written By Tracey Tormé, ‘Star Trek’ Writer And Co-Creator Of ‘Sliders’
Tracey Tormé is a screenwriter who worked on the first and second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and who went on to create Sliders, an underrated show from the mid-‘90s.
Tormé is great at using the small-town setting to tell the sci-fi story. In the same way that a show like Sliders is a story about a group of friends dealing with a high-concept problem in small ways, Fire in the Sky focuses on the men at the center of this alien encounter and the way they’re psychologically affected by what they’ve experienced.
Unfortunately The Film Was A Financial Flop Despite Positive Critical Reviews