Ahh yes. Chances are, if you ask someone if they’ve ever seen Fire in the Sky, they cringe and confirm that the movie ruined some portion of their life. I’d concur. I grew up a grandma’s boy, which might as well be a euphemism for no supervision. Grandma let me watch anything, and I watched everything. From Alien, Childs Play, Predator, and Halloween. You name it. And all before 1st grade. Never had any nightmares. No scary bumps in the night. That’s until I watched Fire in the Sky. Needless to say, I didn’t take the garbage out at night during the entire Clinton administration.
So naturally, when I saw Fire In the Sky was celebrating its 30th anniversary, I was compelled to volunteer for this gem of trauma. Or as we call it in the Stewart household, a “Spicy Memory.”
Fire in the Sky (1993) is a biopic, science-fiction, horror film, directed by Robert Lieberman (The Expanse (2016). It is based on the main character, Travis Walton’s own book The Walton Experience (1978).
“Chance makes a plaything of a man’s life” ~Seneca 1st century AD
Travis Walter (D B Sweeney – Sharp Objects (2018), and Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick – The Faculty (1998) live in the small mountain town of Snowflake, Arizona. On September 5th, 1975 they were working in The White Mountains when their lives changed forever on the carpool home.
At nightfall, they witness crimson-red light beaming through the trees. The men are convinced it’s a fire until the light begins to move across the sky. As they approach the light, they witness an object they can’t describe. Mike paralyzingly stops the truck. All the men are terrified except Travis.
In awe of the light, Travis exits the truck to inspect the object closer. Mike and his coworkers in the truck scream at Travis to get back in. The UFO – that’s what we use to call them – bursts a blue-green light that blows Travis back to the ground like an explosion.
Terrified, Mike steps on the gas and frantically speeds away with the men to safety. Mike’s consciousness catches up to him. Not convinced Travis is dead or the object is following them, he realizes he had to go back for Travis. Only to find the object and Travis have vanished.
I searched the woods and.. but he wasn’t.. There was nothing. They took him. ~Mike Rodgers (Fire In The Sky -1993)
For the next five days, the men are held up to ridicule and accused of murder. National news headlines turn the town upside down. Mike and the loggers pass detectives Frank Waters (James Garner – The Great Escape (1963)) and Blake Davis (Noble Willingham – The Last Boy Scout (1991)) polygraph tests. They still aren’t taken seriously.
…Until Mike receives a call in the middle of the night from Travis.
Travis has been dumped off near a small gas station in a nearby town. He doesn’t know how long he’s been gone, but he’s clearly in shock. He’s naked and covered with bruises and marks. He’s hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion. Through Travis’s time recovering, he has flashbacks of being captive on the ship. He has flashes of being dragged down dark, dingy hallways. Travis recalls being stripped down and restrained where the small aliens brutally conducted disturbing procedures. Travis’s journey is now making peace with what happened, attempting to live a normal life while mending his relationship with Mike after feeling abandoned at the abduction site.
There are some heavy-hitting parts of this movie that last a lifetime. All of this really happens at the end of the third act when Travis recalls the procedures. When Travis’s flashbacks are triggered, they reveal him in a gooey cocoon and breaking free. Only to find he’s in zero gravity. Bummer.
Not to mention accidentally putting your arm through a decomposing body like a broken piñata when you’re maneuvering through aliens’ dead souvenir cargo. I hate it when that happens!
The most common recollection from this movie, for me, is when the aliens administer Travis a feeding tube and literally put a needle in his eye. Which, yeah that is Hell on Earth, er, in Space. I personally always remember the rubber sheet that shrinks down to restrain Travis. Truth be told, the whole damn scene is haunting and traumatic.
All that being said, a large part of Fire in the Sky is Mike and the other loggers dealing with the repercussions of a town thinking they’re lying or murderers.
The main element of this alien abduction film that I lost sleep over is its realism. I felt this was something that could easily happen in reality. No one would believe you as a witness or victim. Oh yeah, and good luck getting a therapist to help heal the PTSD after having alien needles in your eye.
Fire in the Sky – Final Thoughts
Fire in the Sky is a timeless movie that is always fun to discuss. It’s a movie you can bring up toa stranger at work or a relative on Thanksgiving when things get political.
The fact that it’s based on real events is chilling. It has always stayed with me in the back of my mind. Maybe today is the day I’m going to be Travis Walton’ed.
The casting and acting are a time capsule of the era. The sound, the shots. Even seeing James Garner and Noble Willingham make me feel like a kid again watching TV with my grandma. It’s a scarring film, but Fire in the Sky still has that awesome nostalgic experience that makes it a great watch or conversation.
You can watch Fire in the Sky on digital platforms and On Demand. Check out the trailer below.