In 1961, while returning from a vacation in Canada, an average New England couple, Barney (James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope) and Betty Hill (Estelle Parsons, Bonnie and Clyde), suspects that they have had a close encounter of the fourth kind (aka alien abduction). Barney and Betty agree to be hypnotized to help them remember every detail of the night in question.
Reaction & Thoughts:
This absorbing fact-based movie dramatizes the first ever documented case of alien abduction in the United Sates. The UFO Incident makes no attempt to prove or disprove the controversial case; it simply shows the events as The Hills described them to a therapist while under hypnosis. Was this an elaborate hoax? Was it a dream? Was it a shared hallucination? Was it pure paranoia? The movie leaves viewers to draw their own conclusions.
This creepy TV movie scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid. It was scary because the film presents the events in documentary fashion. Also, I had never even heard of alien abductions — this was a few years before Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind — and the idea of strange beings kidnapping people frightened me.
Hesper Anderson and Jake Justiz adapted John G. Fuller’s best-selling book The Interrupted Journey, which chronicled The Hills’ bizarre odyssey. The teleplay stays as close to the “facts” as possible, avoiding the temptation of embellishing the already sensational tale. Director Richard A. Colla (Olly, Olly, Oxen Free) keeps things very low-key, downplaying the fantastic in favor of character development. The visual effects and make-up are somewhat amateurish, but it really doesn’t matter because the subject matter is treated with the utmost delicacy and respect.
The UFO Incident is further grounded in reality by the naturalistic performances of James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons. They feel like a real-life couple. Jones and Parsons are warm, likable and transparent — you believe every word they are saying. They are just plain fabulous. Barnard Hughes (The Lost Boys) is also excellent as the sympathetic Dr. Benjamin Simon, the man who conducted the hypnosis sessions.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Hills UFO saga still gets strong responses from both advocates and skeptics. The film itself leaves the door open for all kinds of interpretations. One thing is for sure: The UFO Incident is no longer the shocker it once was. The “alien abduction” plot has become a staple of Hollywood filmmakers. Yet, unlike most sci-fi movies of this type, there is humanity to be found here. Fine filmmaking, good writing and three fantastic performances propel the movie to something truly interesting and compelling. Color, 92 minutes, Not Rated.