Communion

Communion (1989)
Elite Entertainment
Cast: Christopher Walken, Lindsay Crouse
Extras: Commentary Track, Outtakes, Behind-the-scenes Footage, Video Footage of an Alien Implant Removal, Still Gallery, Storyboards
Rating:

UFO and alien abduction theories have somehow lost the universal appeal they used to have during the 70s and 80s – mostly because with the help of modern science most of them can be rationally explained. Nonetheless the question whether there is life out in space and if these life forms frequently visit Earth remains a very intriguing question. Whitley Strieber wrote a best-selling novel about his own experiences, as he claims, when he was repeatedly abducted by aliens, and it has been turned into a movie in 1989 by French director Philippe Mora, using Strieber’s own adapted screenplay for the film.

The events start one October night when writer Whitley Strieber (Christopher Walken), his family and friends spend the weekend in their upstate lodge in the forests. At night something strange happens, when bright lights engulf the cottage. Unable to explain what happened, they return home, but when they return to the lodge for Christmas, the lights reappear. This time, Strieber is positive he has been abducted by aliens.
To get over his increasingly manic behavior, he decides to visit a psychiatrist, and while the doctor and his wife listen, a recollection of horrific events bursts out of the writer in hypnosis. Still unwilling to accept the fact, Whitley is torn between his rational thinking and the absurdity of his own memories. As the events recur to haunt him, he is decided to find out the truth about the madness that almost drives him insane. But the truth may just be too much for his rational mind to grasp.

Perfectly cast with Christopher Walken as the unsuccessful, yet overly eccentric, writer Whitley Strieber, "Communion" makes a very good attempt to touch upon the subject matter of alien abductions in a rather unbiased way. Whether Strieber’s recollections are real or just his own frustrated answer to an unsuccessful career remains open and up for discussion all along, and it helps giving the movie itself a lot of credibility. Walken’s calculated play, and his own personality help immensely to bring the character to life and carry it through the movie.
At the same time director Mora tries to give viewers an idea of how horrifying the experience must be. To have recurring nightmarish dreams that culminate in the realization that they are no dreams at all, coupled with the inability to convince others of one’s own sanity make for great dramatic moments. Too bad only that Lindsay Crouse as Strieber’s wife, just doesn’t come across too convincingly, and one never loses the impression as if she’s reading her few lines off a cue card.
"Communion" creates some great and frightening moments full of suspense, and the careful approach to the subject matter truly pays off, creating a fascinating film with interesting visuals.

Elite Entertainment is presenting "Communion" on this DVD in a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> presentation that restores the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is clean and without distracting blemishes for the most part, creating a great looking presentation of the movie. The color balance is very faithful, creating a very natural looking image with strong hues, powerful tinges and absolutely faithfully rendered skin tones. Never over-saturated the images on this DVD is beautifully rich and finely delineated, creating a very warm and pleasing image. Black levels are well-balanced giving the picture a lot of visual depth without losing noticeable detail. The compression of the material has also been done very carefully and no compression artifacts are visible throughout the film’s presentation.

"Communion" features a newly re-mixed <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track. It is carefully mixed with subtle ambient sound effects in the surrounds, never distracting of for effects purposes, but always to create a natural, live atmosphere for the film. The audio is clear and without distortion, and dialogues are integrated at a level that keeps them understandable at all times. The movie features an audio track by Allan Zavod, with a main theme by Eric Clapton. Although you won’t get any of Clapton’s blues or rock here, it is a very moody and ethereal theme with a melancholic, yet slightly foreboding quality.

Elite Entertainment has included a number of very interesting and exciting extras on this disc. First and foremost there is an engaging <$commentary,commentary track> with director Philippe Mora and William J. Birnes, the editor of UFO Magazine. Since the essentials of the film are based on real-life events and their recollection of such, the film constantly walks the thin line of supernatural events. The <$commentary,commentary track> is a great utility for the director to explore the subject matter much deeper. Not only does he talk extensively about the production of the film and his cast, including his rather experimental approach to the film and the collaboration of people like Christopher Walken on this project, but he also digs quite deep into current UFO lore and mythology. Many of the events we see in the movie are put into real context by the director during the <$commentary,audio commentary>, and many of the things we see are put into relationship with other abductees’ experiences gathered over the years. If you are interested in the subject matter and if you enjoyed the movie itself, the commentary is a must, as it offers so much additional information and thoughts.

But also the other supplements are very interesting. A series of outtakes give viewers a good idea how Mora used to work on the film, as many of these outtakes run for minutes without interruption when the director ran the camera to capture some magic moments. All the material was later sighted and edited down to include only the best seconds in the film, but getting a look at all this footage is quite interesting. A series of promotional footage, including interview segments with Christopher Walken and the real-life Whitely Strieber are also on the disc, together with a still gallery and storyboards. As an extra for hardcore believers, "Communion" also contains footage of a surgical operation, in which a small black object is removed from someone’s arm – supposedly an alien implant.

Without a doubt, "Communion" is Elite Entertainment’s best-looking DVD to date. It is an entertaining, though very open-ended, film that recollects much of the traditional alien abduction lore. Through it’s open-endedness, the film never really takes sides – which I think is good – and instead creates more of a depiction of events that seem to have happened to Whitley Strieber. The film’s narrative is open enough to allow for a number of alternative interpretations, although obviously, many of the events are coupled and would make it hard to explain them on a psychological level other than mass hysteria – or entire fiction. Either way, I truly enjoyed the sinister atmosphere of the movie and seeing Christopher Walken in this part is a truly captivating experience. If you haven’t seen this film before, but are interested in UFOlogy, make sure to check it out. Apart from a great movie you’re also getting some great, added materials courtesy of Elite Entertainment.

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