Through the eye of a camera we fly over the nightscape of New York. The camera finally ends up in Whitley Strieber’s bedroom where he suddenly wakes from a bad dream. This opening sequence sums-up the essence of Communion (Philippe Mora, 1989) in the sense that Whitley is the center of the universe.
Communion is based on Whitley Strieber’s real-life encounters with aliens and is loosely based on his best-selling book of the same name. Obviously, changes had to be made to transfer the story to the screen, but this only introduces more ambiguities and contradictions to what is already a complex case.
Here the first encounter involves a blast of light filling the windows of his second home in the isolated woods. This scares his friends so much that they can’t wait to get back to New York. This indicates how dangerous these things are if you regard New York as a safe haven!
This event disturbs Whitley (Christopher Walken,) and his behavior becomes even more bizarre than usual. His wife fears he is having a nervous breakdown and advises him to see a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist is madder than he is and encourages him to believe that his nightmares or hallucinations are real. The film plays with images of fear and fantasy.
His son is scared of spiders, and on Halloween night Whitley is totally freaked-out by a girl dressed as an ant. Afterwards, he has to admit that “I kinda went crazy.”
Later, he thinks he was abducted by blue, monk-like aliens and large-eyed, thin-faced insect-like beings. Inside their spaceship he is raped in a small smelly room, by something like a shower attachment. A small mark on his neck is the only evidence of this incident, although at first he thinks it is a spider bite.
All these references to insects are not accidental. When Whitley has another abduction experience, the alien reveals it is wearing a mask and underneath it the creature looks distinctly like an insect. These masks show that there are mysteries within mysteries. When his wife is told by an alien, “Its time to understand,” she is shown an alien/hybrid that seems to be her daughter. But can we trust the word of these torturing tricksters? Are they really alien insects or just images of our own worst nightmares?
The film doesn’t have any answers, but the experiences cure Whitley of his writers’ block and he is inspired to write Communion.