Year: 1989

Production: Pheasantry Films

Director: Philippe Mora

Starring: Christopher Walken, Lindsay Crouse, Joel Carlson, Frances Sternhagen, Andreas Katsulas, Terri Hanauer

Screenwriter: Whitley Strieber

107 minutes; Color

A bizarre vanity movie, written and produced by Strieber from his own "factual" book, Communion details the process whereby Strieber, a successful writer (of sf and fantasy, although that fact is omitted from the screenplay), came to believe that during trauma-induced amnesiac fugues he was in contact with beings possibly from another world. The ending is different from, but no more comprehensible than, that of the book, with an encounter at the cabin replacing an equally unlikely one on the roof of Strieber's New York apartment building, in which the hero disco-dances with the aliens.

Featuring wastefully fine performances from Walken and Crouse as the Streibers, the film tries to walk the line of skepticism, as Streiber himself is reluctant to agree with the encounter group that the creatures who insert what looks like a petrol-pump hose into his anus, for no apparent reason, are aliens. What is more important and interesing is not that he had these experiences, he says, but that so many people believe they have. But the special effects - modelled on the cover of the book - contradict this and provide a definitive answer by being blatant rip-offs of the type of ETs found in the films of Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, and not especially well-created at that.

Finally, the film is tedious because it adopts such a cautious, indirect approach, never coming out and saying anything. The actual encounters are closely modelled on those in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), with unnatural night lights, spindle-armed and big-eyed aliens and wondering children pulled from their beds, but the film's bizzare structure, working towards and back to the climax at the same time, renders the sequences meaningless and incomprehensible rather than suggestive and mystifying. In the end, this shares the flaws of the rest of its tiny sub-genre of "based-on-fact" paranormal movies - The Amityville Horror (1979), The Entity (1982) - an inability to reconcile its supposedly tru story with the leftover horror movie cliches dragged along by the subject matter, a wandering storyline that throws lots of details at the audience but never comes together, and an over-reliance on the brand of "Happy Family" trauma that has been explored far more fruitfully in unashamedly fictional settings like The Shining (1980) or Close Encounters.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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