Communion (1989)

This adaptation of Whitley Strieber’s divisive cult classic is half a good movie, half a fatally miscalculated one. First, the good: Strieber’s real-life account of alien visitors and the subsequent psychological torment left in their wake provides most of the movie’s narrative strengths, in particular its incisive dissection of Strieber’s marriage to his wife Anne. It’s hard to fault Anne for having difficulty accepting her husband’s story given its literal other-wordly basis, which makes the marital trauma they both experience all the more thematically potent and effective. Additionally, Christopher Walken and Lindsay Crouse are both extraordinarily well cast in their respective roles: Walken, in particular, approaches the role with a palpably lived-in, inner rich life for Streiber, and his gradual psychological deterioration is all the more engaging because the audience trusts Walken’s instincts. However, by the time the movie hits the halfway mark, things have taken a turn for the downright ludicrous: Director Philippe Mora has no clue what to do with the actual story at the heart of this movie, so he focuses on a surreal, almost psychedelic approach in the second half that he completely and thoroughly breaks the spell that Walken and Crouse are able to establish in the first half. The rest is jumbled nonsense that undercuts the emotional core of Strieber’s screenplay with ridiculous visuals and ends up damaging the finished product. Admittedly a few scenes near the beginning are strong enough to give a casual viewer the willies, but it’s not enough to rescue the movie from Mora’s incompetence.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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