Fire In The Sky still a frightening flick at 25

Contributed by
Mar 16, 2018

This week marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most disturbing alien abduction films ever to come out of Hollywood, 1993's Fire in the Sky.

The movie is based on the real-life account of logger Travis Walton and his unpleasant close encounter with probing extraterrestrials in Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on November 5, 1975.

Walton recalls being out in the woods with co-workers and driving home that night on a remote fire road when the group of seven spotted a shimmering, brightly lit UFO.

When they foolishly stop to investigate, Walton exits the truck for a better look and is blasted by a brilliant bream of light that flings him backward and renders him unconscious.

Believing him to be dead, his buddies flee the scene in panic but circle back to discover his body has vanished. Returning to town, they recount the incredible tale to the local sheriff, who believes foul play is involved. Walton reappears five days later at a neighboring town's gas station, naked, disoriented, and slightly mutilated.

The remainder of the film details (via bizarre flashbacks) Walton's horrifying experiences aboard the alien craft and some nasty medical procedures he is subjected to while incarcerated by the nefarious otherworldly beings.

Fire in the Sky was directed by Robert Lieberman and starred Terminator 2: Judgment Day's Robert Patrick, D.B. Sweeney, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, and James Garner. It was released on March 12, 1993, to enthusiastic reviews, which especially noted the graphic depictions of alien torture and convincing special effects by ILM while retaining a tense paranoid tone as its uncanny narrative unfolds.

The screenplay was adapted by Tracey Torme from Walton's own 1978 nonfiction novel, The Walton Experience. In it, Walton chronicles in great detail the actual event and its scarring, life-altering aftermath. Paramount Pictures purchased the rights to the book and attached veteran commercial and TV director Lieberman to helm the controversial project. Lieberman is a veteran of many hit television series, including The X-Files, Dexter, and SYFY's Lost Girl, EarthSea, Haven, Eureka, and The Expanse.

Unleashed just before The X-Files was set to premiere on network television and public interest in UFOs and abduction tales was stirring citizens into a frenzied revival, Fire in the Sky remains one of a handful of excellent extraterrestrial kidnapping yarns that includes Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Christopher Walken's Communion. It's still perhaps the most famous case of UFO abduction ever recorded, and its near-documentary style filmmaking sends home a penetrating message.

Modestly budgeted at $15 million, the sci-fi flick only managed to rake in $19 million after its theatrical run, despite receiving decent reviews from critics, including Roger Ebert, who commented that "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."

After 25 years, Fire in the Sky exists as a jarring, nightmarish piece of sci-fi cinema, admirably complemented by stark cinematography from the masterful Bill Pope, who shot Sam Raimi's Darkman, Army of Darkness, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3, in additional to being the eyes behind the camera for the Wachowskis' The Matrix Trilogy.

Rounding out the impressive creative team was the Academy Award-nominated musician and composer Mark Isham (Blade, The Mist, A River Runs Through It), who provided the unnerving score that accompanied the film's sickening images of D.B. Sweeney choking down alien goo and screaming beneath a transparent medical membrane aboard the alien ship.

Do you have any strange stories of mysterious lights or unidentified flying saucers, and were you freaked out the first time you witnessed Fire in the Sky?