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Fire in the Sky
Fire In The Sky (1993) prefigured The X-Files by a couple of years but is very much in that vein, from a time when UFOs and alien abductions were still cranking away in popularity in the United States zeitgeist. (As opposed to the early 2020s, when the US government has opened up and admitted the large-ish number of previously-classified UFO encounters, which are more commonly believed to be just weird unexplained phenomena and not actual flying saucers.) Featuring a curious cast and unique special effects, Fire In The Sky plays something like a more traditional drama with an investigation feel, rather than the alien horror feature theatrical trailers were selling. With an effective structure and solid performances, it works regardless of what viewers might expect.
Fire In The Sky starts with a slow-burn credits sequence that uses a simple framing device and Mark Isham's effective score to gradually crank up the tension before we're introduced to the lead characters, a logging team on the run. That team includes Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2) among others, but not Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney, Hear No Evil) their teammate, whose whereabouts go unaccounted-for, despite the questioning of Sheriff Blake Davis (Noble Willingham, Fast Charlie ... The Moonbeam Rider) and Lieutenant Frank Watters (James Garner, The Notebook). The cops suspect a death-by-misadventure or murder cover-up, and there is certainly a red herring or two to lead one to this conclusion, but the story the team eventually tells is far more fantastic, though they have not a shred of evidence to support it. A super creepy collect-call finally breaks open the dam, giving us insight into what really happened to Travis Walton, to the eventual delight of alien fans in the audience.
The movie's ensemble cast was, at the time, filled with not-exactly unknowns, but at least lesser-knowns, all geared up as loggers and looking relatively anonymous; it works in the movie's favor, creating an air of verisimilitude promptly shattered by James Garner's entrance, and saccharine flashbacks used to flesh out Walton's backstory, and hampered by the more prosaic aspects of Isham's score. Luckily Garner settles into his role nicely, and all the others, including Henry Thomas and Craig Sheffer as suitably hot-headed, unlikable Allan Dallis, ultimately cement the movie as one of compelling dramatic substance.
Fans of the good stuff (at least circa 1993) need not fear, however, as scenes of Walton's otherworldly encounters are well done and bizarre. The incident in the woods, accomplished mostly with simple colored lights, also features a weird craft unlike much of anything seen before. More importantly, Walton's memories of what happened after are effective and disturbing, with animatronic aliens performing experiments that are visceral and gloppy, with ocular peril that won't sit well with many viewers. Walton's time in the ship is indeed quite alien and disorienting, relayed in jarring flashbacks, and his boss Rogers defends his recollections stoutly to the disbelieving townsfolk. But was it real? Only the real-life Walton and his workmates know for sure.
Director Robert Lieberman (who has kept his toes in the paranormal waters a good deal since directing this) does a fine job coaxing realistic performances from his cast, especially considering the sensationalistic material, and especially blends Garner's work well within the mix. The drama is compelling enough, and the structure of the movie interesting enough, to carry us through to what we've been waiting for, which is the alien action. In fact Sweeney, Lieberman, et al draw us in to such an extent that we're pretty concerned for Walton as he's about to get probed. Fire In The Sky is obviously dated by today's standard of the U.F.O. genre, but a solid cast, fascinating construction, and a good deal of still-creepy alien action make it a Recommended part of any alien lover's movie library.
Fire In The Sky comes swooping down from Kino Lorber in a 1080p High-Definition transfer it a 2.39:1 ratio presentation. Colors look great, natural and deeply saturated, even the alien flesh tones appear realistic! Detail levels are quite fine, and there is no print damage to be seen. Black levels are deep and maintain detail integrity, and other transfer issues are not present. A great image overall!
A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, or 2.0 stereo track are your options, and both sound fine. Dialog is clean and clear, and mixed well, there is no distortion or degradation. The 5.1 mix adds a few extra bits of soundscape placement to beef up the terror scenes, but doesn't go overboard. Either track is adequate, with the edge of course going to the 5.1 track. The dynamic range suits Isham's score well.
In addition to English Subtitles, a Photo Gallery and the Theatrical Trailer, Kino presents a new 26-minute Interview with Director Robert Lieberman which comes in the form of scene-specific commentary, but manages to also encompass somewhat of an overview of the director's experiences in making the film. Additionally, you get three other Audio Interviews accompanied by scenes and stills from the film, including a 15-minute Interview with D.B. Sweeney, an 11-minute Interview with Robert Patrick ("I was getting offered robots and other weird shit" post-T2) and an 11-minute Interview with Composer Mark Isham.
Fire In The Sky's 1993 archetypal tale of backwoods alien abduction is in execution obviously dated by today's standard of the U.F.O. genre, but a solid cast, fascinating construction, a good deal of still-creepy alien action, and an hour's-worth of supplemental interviews with cast and crew on this disc make it a Recommended part of any alien lover's movie library.