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  • Nate Lemann


Updated: Jul 16

Our second entry on the Alien Horror Summer countdown is the 1993 film based on the “true” story of Travis Walton, an Arizona logger who has a chance encounter with a UFO but after he disappears, the question becomes if Travis was taken or the subject of foul play.

by Nate Lemann

D.B. Sweeney in "Fire in the Sky"
D.B. Sweeney in "Fire in the Sky"

Robert Lieberman’s 1993 sci-fi film is a documentation of the famed UFO story of Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney). Walton was part of a logging crew in the Arizona wilderness in the 1970s, when one fateful night, he and his crew (including “T2” era Robert Patrick as Travis’s best friend and boss Mike Rodgers) come across what looks like a fire in the sky but as they approach closer, it is like nothing they have ever seen before. The wild card Travis gets out of the car to get a closer look and that is when all hell breaks loose. Following some disturbing actions from their strange “visitors”, Mike and the rest of the crew make a break for it, leaving Travis behind. When Mike goes back out of guilt, Travis and the UFO are nowhere to be found.

The film takes turn here and follows the fallout when the rest of the crew return to town and tell of what they just witnessed. At first, they are looked at as kooks or pranksters trying to play a joke on the town. As the days go by and there continues to be no sign of Travis, that mockery turns to accusations. The town grows to believe that the crew must’ve killed Travis (or at least the hot-head outsider played Craig Sheffer), and their improbable story is a cover. Mike, in particular, has his life and good name fall apart before his eyes, something he believes he deserves for leaving Travis behind. It doesn’t help that a bulldog investigator (played the late, great James Garner) has it out for the crew and their cockamamie story.

The story however turns one night, five days later: Travis shows up naked and beat-up at an abandoned gas station, in a state of shock and severe PTSD. Travis can’t initially recall what happened over those first few days but as we follow his recovery, we get a terrifying glimpse of what Travis claimed happened to him. 

The story is fascinating and one you rarely see in these abduction stories. The middle act of this film is basically a witch-hunt as the crew are not sure they made the right choice telling the “truth” of what they saw. It is its own very well-paced type of horror movie, showing what happens when the truth of what is witnessed is too fantastical for one to believe. Patrick is great as a man whose life begins to untie itself at the seams as he grapples with the horror of what happened to his friend and his guilt in leaving him behind to his terrible fate. He, Garner, Sheffer, and Peter Berg, as another member of the crew, are biting at each other’s throats for the entire second act. It makes for very compelling conflict and drama.

When we return to Travis’s journey, that is when we enter the great Alien Horror aspects of this film. From the initial UFO sighting, Lieberman and the VFX team do an incredible job to evolve from the generic UFO design seen in older media, making the saucer almost like its own living creature in how it moves. There is one particular shot during the abduction scene where the ship looks to be made out of lava and shifting platelets. Wildly inventive work. 

Once we get inside the ship later on, we are treated to quite possibly the most horrific alien probing scene you will ever watch. Not to ruin the surprise for those who still haven’t watched this film but everything about the interior design and methods of the aliens feels so foreign and uncanny to humanity in all the best ways. Sweeney and Lieberman sell the horror and fear of the situation so well. Instead of slowing down from the propulsive second act, we instead amp up the horror factor to an eleven and then some. 

This may not be the pinnacle of the genre, but it is still a very entertaining and truly inventive abduction film. The third act will not disappoint.


FINAL RATING: 3.5/5 (Entertaining true-life, abduction tale)            

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Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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