Whitley Strieber and had an itch to re-watch this flick. Watching the movie so soon after finishing the books that preceded it reveals how little the movie actually takes from Strieber's writing. To be fair, the writing is about 80% Strieber's philosophical musings on the nature of the phenomenon he thinks he's experiencing. He dives into everything from Celtic fairy stories to the affect of magnetic fields on humans to what might be the nature of the soul. It's completely unfilmable as it is. The solution: get Christopher Walken and have him crank up the crazy.
That works. Walken is fun as all get-out to watch in this film. He twitches and sings and one-liners his way through every scene. He deliberately looks directly at the camera on many occasions. His reactions to seeing the aliens are bizarre (when about to be anal probed: "Can we talk this over? It looks like you're going to sing White Christmas..."). What should make his performance into a joke is actually pretty effective. Here's a weird dude having really weird experiences: enjoy.
That's the one thing the movie gets very right: the weirdness. The reason I enjoy Strieber's books so much is mostly due to how odd the experiences he describes are. If this stuff were really real -- if an alien intelligence were trying to talk to the smartest primates on this ball of dirt -- it would be an extremely strange thing for these two completely different creatures to meet. The climax of the film has Walken walking into a ball of light after mysteriously leaving his New York apartment. Inside, he high-fives a blue alien while the willowy gray aliens do a weird, floating samba in the background. He then see himself dressed as a magician standing in front of a Christmas tree. The magician seems to be there just to mess with him, making fun of his prior reactions to the aliens and telling him he will never understand what's going on. It's weird as hell and I love it.
Watched: DVD from Elite.