Retro Review: FIRE IN THE SKY (1993)

A little bit different film for a Retro Review – Bleeding Dead

On November 15th, 1975 Mike Rogers and his crew of loggers drive back to their small town in Northeastern Arizona to claim that their friend and co-worker, Travis Walton, was abducted by an unidentified object in the sky. The men recap the story of how they first saw what to be a ‘fire in the  sky’ to when Travis appeared to be killed by a beam of light spouting from a flying UFO above head, to when they went back for his body and found him gone. The story of course is so elaborate and unbelievable that immediately the men fall under suspicious by out of town detective Frank Watters, who deems that they’re responsible for Travis’s disappearance. The people in their small town also share a wary opinion of the men, unsure whether they killed Travis or are insane. With Mike’s relationship falling apart and an inconclusive lie detector test that the men had to take it seems that no one will ever accept what truly happened. That is until Travis returns.

Despite the less than presentable summary FIRE IN THE SKY is unlike any alien abduction film I’ve ever seen. With art and set design being its best assets. The inside of the space craft is creatively constructed as it takes on more of a biological and ecological interior rather than a highly advanced technical build or a foreign operating room. With the aliens being an equally unique and fascinating creation, having human qualities to them that don’t mimic the the hoaky creations of Hollywood past. The initial abduction scene and  Travis’s experience inside the craft prove most unnerving, the latter being an effective torture sequence with the overtones of weird alien experiments being its focus. The part following Travis’s abduction though is in the common as they go about the usual motions. As in how the town thinks the men are either crazy or that they really killed Travis, which slows the middle of the film a bit.

Mike’s relationship with Travis is a somewhat complicated one leaving you a bit detached from his story, but you do feel for Mike as he’s thrown under the bus for most of the film, yet he’s the only logical one around. However, thee friendship is so distraught and they spend most of the film either apart from each other or at odds that it’s hard to grasp the exact nature of it, and ultimately feels undeveloped in a sense. Both D.B. Sweeney and Robert Patrick are fabulous in the film and pull off the difficult relationship, Sweeney plays the first half of his role in more enthusiasm and Patrick holds the quiet but confident part as Mike. The supporting cast is good with James Garner playing the villain to the men, so to speak, and the other loggers as good back characters. I may be so drawn to the abduction scene simply because of how it’s shot, which is one of the things I really liked about FIRE IN THE SKY. The use of color in the scene creates an alluring yet intimidating cask when Travis steps underneath the UFO. The rest of the film has fair and even tone overall resulting in good cinematography.

As far as the ending goes I’m indifferent to it, most might want a more exciting conclusion to an abduction film but ideally this is intended to be ‘real’, so they go for a softer ending that ties up a few loose ends but leaves the general mystery behind Travis’s abduction. You don’t have to believe in aliens or in Walton’s story to find Fire in the Sky good. The film does heavily rely on the fact that this all happened but I do believe that the filmmakers did enough on their part to make a scary abduction movie. If you sit with it for a moment and let it get the drama parts out of the way I don’t doubt that FIRE IN THE SKY will at the least intrigue with its unique take on aliens and the broad-brush horror of abduction.

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