'Communion' Review: Walken at his Wackiest
Let’s get this out of the way first: Communion (1989) is not a good film. Honestly, it’s a pretty objectively bad film. The plot is manic, all of the minor character acting is terrible, the effects are simply hilarious in how cheap they can be, and the movie’s thesis is so ridiculous that even the cast and crew seem to be scoffing at it. Twelve years after Stephen Spielberg’s monumental Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it’s painfully obvious how much of a cash-in this was for the production company, even at the expense of what the author, Whitley Streiber, takes to be a very personal and real story.
But, my god, is it some sort of strange fun.
The setup is pretty standard for the genre. Christopher Walken portrays the aforementioned author and screenwriter, Whitley Strieber, detailing the story of his encounters with extra-terrestrial beings and how he comes to terms with the knowledge that we are not alone. On top of that, he comes to find, of course, that he has always known about the existence of aliens, as he was chosen as a child to be some kind of orator or emissary, or possibly just a long-term test subject, for their people. There’s bright lights, rubber masks, worries of psychosis, support groups, and, of course, probing.
Still, it’s obvious that the main cast, especially Walken, are having a hell of a time with this material. He simply devours the scene whenever he is in it. Whether he’s sleep-talking to the big-eyed aliens, shouting at teenagers in masks, or being hypnotized, his performance is spun to twelve. One minute he’s being an eccentric writer, talking to himself in his bed robe while pointing a camera at his face, the next he’s trying to keep deadly serious about his strange encounters, then he’s shouting at the memories of little hooded plastic men trying to drag him back to their ship. Of course this performance culminates when he reaches the aliens in consciousness, as they put on an elaborate show of stolen rituals, ending with a conversation with a being that takes his own face, talking in lofty, pseudo-poetry about the act of being, intercut with a metallic voice filter and his own raucous laughter.
Past the unintentional comedy, there is some other small value to this adaptation. A fair portion of the movie, even more than the ridiculous alien scenes, are given to Strieber and his wife (played by Lindsay Crouse) trying to deal with what he experienced and how it changes his personality and mind. For half or more of the run time, even our hero believes that his encounter was nothing more than a dream or a psychotic break. He gives a valid nod to the ideas of mass hallucination, traumatic psychosis, or night terrors (a phenomenon which I can personally relate to). Too bad that all of this credible and interesting science has to be shoved away by the screenwriter’s insistence that what he, and therefore Walken’s character, experienced was an authentic encounter with the extraterrestrial and supernatural.
As long as you walk into Communion anticipating a lackluster movie used as an excuse to watch Christopher Walken’s roller-coaster of hammy highlights, it’s impossible not to enjoy. Would I recommend this film seriously? In no way, but if you need a good laugh, one of those rare films you can throw on with some friends to point and laugh at or improvise your own commentary MST3-style, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
As they say: truth is stranger than fiction. Even if you don’t buy the idea that Strieber really did contact beings from beyond the stars, the fact that this film exists is a world-changing revelation.
Final Say; Skip It, unless you plan to make fun of it.