Fire in the Sky (Robert Lieberman, 1993) takes the subject of UFO encounters seriously. Rather than use UFOs to wonder at the possibilities of alien life forms, or to reflect upon atomic warfare or the threat of Soviet invasion, Fire in the Sky plays a straight bat.

The film is based on the real story of Travis Walton, who was abducted by a UFO from Arizona’s Sitgreave-Apache National Forest on November 5, 1975. In the movie, he and a gang of fellow loggers are leaving work in their pick-up truck when a bright light appears in the forest. They stop to look at it and Travis is so spell-bound that he runs towards it. Suddenly, the UFO shoots a beam of light that blasts him to the ground. The tough loggers drive off and abandon Travis to his fate.

When the men return to the scene of the encounter, Travis is missing. The police suspect murder, but five days later he is found naked and semi-conscious. He is unable to say what happened in this period, but later he does recollect an abduction experience in full detail.

The film shows us inside a flying saucer that looks more like the innards of a creature rather than the clinically sterile rooms of the 1950s flying saucers. Travis is shown breaking out of a slime-filled cocoon almost as if he is being born again. Weightless, he falls against another cocoon, which contains a half-eaten human corpse. Shocked by this discovery, he goes into another room where he finds seemingly dead Communion-like aliens. Much to his relief he finds that they are actually space suits for aliens that have potato-like skin, a thin body and long arms and legs.

The aliens grab Travis and bind him like a mummy to an operating table. Here they conduct a horrifying and seemingly meaningless examination/operation on him. They put black slime and a tube in his mouth, a cable is inserted into his neck and a robotic probe virtually goes into his right eye. These images of imprisonment and torture are genuinely shocking. They certainly give a good idea of what the abduction nightmare can be for many people.

Although based on the Travis Walton case, the scriptwriter Tracy Torme admitted that the studio fictionalized the alien abduction sequence and they had to make other compromises to make the story entertaining. However, he claims that: ‘For the most part Fire in the Sky remains truthful to the Walton incident in fact and spirit.’