"The whole movie is clouded and obscure and pretty much inexplicable"- Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
"In aiming for the widest popular appeal, the film ends up in no man's land."- Time Out London
These two reviews pretty much sum up what has got to be the strangest alien abduction movie ever made, the 1989 Phillipe Mora film "Communion." (I'm not saying it's the worst; I think "Fire In The Sky" and "The Fourth Kind" share that honor). "Communion" is, of course, based on the 1987 book of the same title by horror and science-fiction writer Whitley Strieber, supposedly based on his own experiences as an abductee. The book was, of course, a massive best-seller (which, I freely admit, I loved) and helped introduced readers to a whole new kind of alien abduction, the kind in which the aliens appear at the foot of your bed in the middle of the night and spirit you away to some kind of exam room to be probed and implanted...
On paper, the film had everything going for it, and, based on the popularity of the book alone, it should have been a smash hit. But then things happened...
|What's wrong with this revealing still from the movie "Communion"? Pretty much everything.|
Because so many of my MUFON cases recently have involved aspects similar to those portrayed in the book and the movie, I decided to watch the movie again. I had only seen it once before, when it first came out, and watching it last night I remembered why I've never bothered to sit through it a second time. It's weird. It's self-indulgent. It's a mess. And -- surprise, surprise -- it's not available on Netflix or Amazon; I had to watch it on YouTube. Maybe that explains this summation on the "Communion" Wikipedia page:
It received a mostly negative critical reaction due to Walken's performance and was panned by Strieber himself due to its non-factual portrayal of him. The film was considered a box office failure.Let's pick that apart, shall we? Whitley Strieber wrote the book. He wrote the screenplay. He wrote himself as a character, wrote his his own dialog and story arc. He even produced the movie. And yet he allegedly complained about a "non-factual portrayal of him"? How does that work, exactly?
Aside from that, I have three main gripes with the movie, two of which involve its dramatic structure and one of which involves its treatment of the UFO phenomenon.
- Casting Christopher Walken as Whitley Strieber may have seemed like a good idea to the filmmakers, but they overlooked one crucial detail. A big part of the story is how Strieber starts out a fairly normal, if eccentric, guy, and slowly becomes unhinged as he realizes that he is being visited on a regular basis by aliens. Walken, however, portrays him as a whack-job from the get-go so that crucial dramatic transition is completely lost. He starts out kind of crazy and then gets a little crazier. Whoopee.
- What should have been the biggest dramatic moment in the story gets thrown away, and because it gets thrown away the rest of the story makes no sense. After Strieber realizes he is being abducted by aliens -- or "little blue fuckers" as he so eloquently describes one of the alien breeds -- and finally reveals this to his long-suffering wife, she thinks he is lying to her. All well and good. But a few days later their son confides to his mom that he has been seeing "little blue doctors" and other entities in his bedroom. At this point, the son knows nothing about his Dad's abduction experiences, so the only way he could know this is from direct experience. Wouldn't you think that would be enough to prove to Mrs. Strieber that her husband isn't making this shit up? I would think so, but instead she has no reaction at all to this bombshell. When she does act, it's to haul her husband's sorry ass to see a psychiatrist, because for some bizarre, never-explained reason she still doesn't believe him. And because Mrs. S. ignores her son's testimony, from this point on in the movie nothing else that transpires makes the slightest bit of sense.
- Finally, I hate what this movie has to say about UFOs and aliens, which, in the end, is nothing at all. I get the sense that the filmmakers (and that includes Strieber) are trying to say something important, but their message gets so bogged down in a bizarre mix of cutesy, self-indulgent, surreal nonsense -- at one point Streiber and the aliens seem to have been transported to Rio at the height of Carnival -- and preachy, somber, staring dramatically at the camera pseudo-profundity that the whole thing just falls apart, and in the end has nothing to say.
And, sadly, in the end, the movie had nothing to tell me that could help with my current crop of potential UFO abductees. In trying to say too much, the movie said nothing of any value.
Give me Richard Dreyfuss and a pile of mashed potatoes anytime...