Fire in the sky opens with the trees that are carved out a rustic lane glitter with illumination. A light moves closer, threatening to rumble across the horizon. The score becomes more ominous as it progresses. We have no idea what this ominous shape means, but the wind howls dangerously. It forms a shape as it breaks across the road: headlights. A rusted and damaged pickup vehicle swerves towards us, its trajectory uncertain and it skids around like a fawn on ice.
“Fire in the Sky” is another one of those legends about an unwitting human victim who is taken and exposed to weird medical experiments before being released back on Earth by an alien spaceship. The film begins with the foreboding words “This is a true story,” which usually serves as a caution that it would have been preferable if it hadn’t been. We later hear that all of the key players passed lie detection exams.
Fire in the Sky Where it All Happened and More
These are supposedly actual incidents that occurred in November 1975 in Snowflake. And director Robert Lieberman set out to portray it for an American public enthralled by accounts of alien abductions from the mid-1940s onwards. The outcome is Fire in the Sky, a 1993 film that is currently available on Amazon Prime Video as of writing this.
However, a little tolerance will be essential. Like many films based on spectacular national enquirer material, the film appears to be confident in how exciting its ripped-from-the-headlines subject is, but unsure of how to portray it. The majority of the film takes place after the event, with officials investigating Walton’s absence and dismissing claims made by his coworkers, including best friend Mike (Robert Patrick), who claim to have seen a UFO floating above the forest canopy in the woods outside of Snowflake, Arizona.
Lieberman’s direction is also notable for its horror and suspense elements. Without a preamble that conjures the cliches of “fourth kind cinema” – missing time, impossible encounters, eerie lights in the sky – this might easily stand alone as an excellent crime thriller.
We know it’s pretty cliche, but that’s the fun part
Travis reappeared five days later at a petrol station on the edge of town. He’s completely naked and terrified of being touched when they find him. Travis’ friends and family first enlist the help of the weird Ufologist, then transport him to a hospital. We start to see flashes of strange things there, as the horrified Travis is dragged along on a trolley and subsequently examined by physicians.
The inside scenes of the vessel are fantastic. They successfully convey a world I’ve never seen in a film before, and for the first time, I actually believed I was witnessing something truly alien, rather than merely a set decorator’s fantasies. Fans of science fiction and special effects may find these scenes to be well worth the price of admission. However, the film’s problem is that there isn’t enough information on the aliens, and the film closes on a confusing and inconclusive note.
The irony is that fake or not, Walton’s widely publicized account is likely to have affected many of those subsequent depictions, including the X-Files, which debuted six months later and eventually took both visuals and a key cast member from Fire in the Sky. Finally, the film isn’t even loyal to its dubious true narrative, but that’s fine: what it’s really expressing is generations of UFO interest, refined through sci-fi antecedents and tempered into the worst-case scenario worry that they won’t come in peace which is always the case for these films with rare exceptions.