PLEASE NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD
Communion is based on actual events that author Whitley Strieber was an unwilling participant in. At least, he was unwilling at the start.
First, a little bit about writer Whitley Strieber. Strieber was a novelist far before writing Communion. He was most known for writing horror novels, such as The Wolfen and The Hunger, both of which you may also know from their film adaptations. As I stated, Strieber was known for writing horror fiction. Communion, on the other hand, is a work of non-fiction.
The film begins in the fall of 1985; writer Whitley Strieber was having a bit of what some would refer to as “writer’s block.” He decided to take his family from their home in New York City, and spend some time at their vacation cabin in upstate New York. He was hoping time away from the hustle and bustle of the big city might help him to come up with some new thoughts or ideas for his next book. While on this getaway vacation, he was awakened to see the face of what could only be described as an “other worldly” intelligence. He was being visited by aliens from another world. When he woke the next morning, he had no memory of this event. He and his family would return to New York City, where he later began to have terrifying hallucinations and decided to take his wife’s advice and seek out the help of a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist convinced Whitley to undergo hypnotic regression therapy, where they discovered that he had been visited and abducted by these alien life forms for most of his life. Whitley is unable to come to grips with all of this, and so he returns to his upstate cabin and ultimately is abducted yet again by these creatures — and this time he is able to communicate with them. Although he does not truly learn who or what they are, nor where they are from, he does learn that it seems these beings are communicating with humans to help them transform and perhaps better themselves. They may be sort of “pushing” or guiding people in the right direction in their lives.
In the film, Whitley Strieber is portrayed by the one and only Christopher Walken. Now, anyone who knows anything about Strieber knows that Walken did not play Whitley as he truly is, but rather he played Whitley in pretty much the same manner he portrays any character. He plays himself, essentially. Now, don’t get me wrong, Walken is brilliant in this film, despite the fact that he doesn’t act like Whitley would. Walken’s semi-psychotic take on the role actually only helps to display the torment and terror which Strieber was being forced to live with and deal with. Lindsay Crouse plays Whitley’s wife, and is very sympathetic toward his plight despite the fact that she is unsure of what exactly it is that her husband is going through.
Now, there are some differences between the film and the book, so I’ll discuss some facts from the book itself, some of which are touched upon in the film, whereas other items are not.
Whitley was not the only member of the Strieber family who underwent hypnotic regression therapy. His wife, Anne, also was hypnotized. Anne’s recount of events closely matched Whitley’s. There were also guests of the Striebers’ at the cabin who reported seeing strange lights and bright illuminations in the otherwise dark, heavily wooded area where the cabin was located. Whitley Strieber does not insist that these “visitations” had to be true aliens/extraterrestrials. He is open to the idea that there are other possibilities or explanations. He discusses many possibilities, such as the aforementioned aliens, or that these type of occurrences could be something completely mental. Not mental as in psychosis or anything along those lines, but rather implying that it could be an as yet unidentified aspect of the human mind. He also takes into account the possibility that the “creatures” may be of this earth, not extraterrestrial; something that cannot normally be witnessed by the human eye.
The book is very deep and philosophical, therefore some readers may be bored by it, or even become lost amid Strieber’s hypothesizing many angles and possibilities. The movie is done from less of a philosophical point of view and is easier to understand and keep up with than the book. This is not to say that the book isn’t great, because it is. I am very much into UFO/alien abduction phenomena and was able to pretty well keep up with and understand the book, but those who are not overly interested in the subject and all of the theories surrounding it may not entirely enjoy reading it.
To sum it all up, if you’re knowledgeable of the subject matter at hand, I would most definitely recommend Whitley Strieber’s book, Communion. If you’re either casually interested in the subject or you just would prefer to watch and learn (and be entertained) rather than read and thus be sucked into thinking heavily on this topic, then I would suggest you check out the Philippe Mora directed film, Communion, based on Strieber’s book. (I’d like to mention that the movie was also written by Strieber, so it’s not too far from the basic idea of the book. It’s just been compressed down into a drama) And if you’re a Christopher Walken fan, then by all means, you need to see the movie!
Now for the ratings:
The book, Communion, written by Whitley Strieber, gets 4.75 out of 5 stars (taking off .25 only because it is rather longwinded at times and as mentioned, the reader needs knowledge of the UFO/alien abduction phenomena to fully understand what he or she is reading).
The film, Communion, written by Whitley Strieber, directed by Philippe Mora, and starring Christopher Walken and Lindsay Crouse, is given 5 out of 5 stars.