After tackling two opposing reviews of Sleepy Hollow (here and here), me and Stu from themanwhosavedmovies.com again decided to revisit a movie from the 90s and share our thoughts, so our readers could compare our reviews to agree and disagree! This time, it was a revisit only from his side, as I had never seen the movie before…
A link to Stu’s review is at the bottom of this article!
Arizona in the year 1975. Five loggers are driving home from work in their truck at night, as they pass a forest clearing that is illuminated by a mysterious red light. The youngest one of them, Walton (D.B. Sweeney), foolishly exits the truck to investigate and his friends have to witness what looks like an abduction by a UFO. Expectedly, none of the townfolks nor the Sheriff are believing them and they find themselves accused of murdering their co-worker. That is, until he comes back…
For some reason, I have never seen this movie or even heard of it, which is odd as I was pretty invested in the whole “alien abduction” hype the X-Files show stirred up when it premiered in 1993, the very same year this movie was released. Means this was the very first time I laid my eyes upon it. I have to admit that I was positively surprised overall, because outside my short but intense phase as X-Files fan, I was never particularly convinced of “fact-based” alien abduction movies (…but more about that later).
What struck me first was how well made this movie is, which is not an attribute most of the movies of this sub-subgenre are sharing. The visuals are typical early 90s gloss, with a typically for that era stylized and considerably prettied up depiction of the 70s. A good pace and a dynamic camerawork and editing style barely let come up any boredom. Writing and acting are pretty solid as well, even though the “Modern Rural Americana” pathos is laid on pretty thick occasionally.
It’s strange to see the finest of Hollywood’s male second league of that time looking that young. Peter Berg sporting slicked back hair and small round glasses irritatingly resembles young Ethan Hawke, while Patrick’s look with long hair and beard contrasts sharply with his steely appearance in his breakout role as “T-1000” in Terminator 2.
By far the best parts of this movie are the ones depicting the abduction and the psychological aftermath for its victim. There is a prolonged flashback sequence of Walton inside the alien spaceship that was wisely put at the end, as it is the definite highlight. The special effects of that scene are outstanding, holding up to this day and the production designers tried to avoid the usual visual cliches of shiny metal surfaces and gleaming lights and came up with a creepy biomechanoid look. The eerie atmosphere and the short, but disturbing glimpses of visceral body horror reminded me somewhat of the hospital sequence from Jacob’s Ladder. Only the cliched aliens, which rarely make sense in those kind of movies, again didn’t quite convince me.
But the surrounding drama and procedural part, while not dragging and considerably well acted, is where the movie loses me a tiny little. Here is my issue with most alien abduction movies: They rely too much on the “based on true facts“ aspect to create drama. Even without testing the validity of that statement, this still doesn’t add any value and is, in the worst case, outright lazy. To make them work on more than one level, even movies that are based on proven factual events mostly need an additional metaphorical layer or subtext and something like an alien abduction story without one is really hard to swallow. It should not be necessary to count on the gullibility of the audience to lend an outlandish story like this impact – I mean, you don’t have to be a practising Catholic to be scared by The Exorcist or The Omen either, right? The story of a hick having too close an encounter of the third kind alone isn’t exactly original enough to carry a movie on its own. That only hicks and cows are abducted by aliens is a little suspicious anyway.
In the end though, the aforementioned qualities save this movie and raise it over comparable genre entries like, for example, the mediocre Blue Tornado (1991) or the awful The Fourth Kind (2009). Recommended to not only UFO-fanatics, but anyone who likes stylish 90s horror.
Now let’s check what Stu thought of it!