the quarantine stream communion

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Communion

Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime Video and Tubi

The Pitch: The “true” story of how author Whitley Strieber was abducted by aliens!

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: Christopher Walken has a reputation for being a bit kooky and out-there. But his work in Communion has to be the weirdest performance of his entire career, and that’s saying something. Walken seems genuinely unhinged here, playing his role as if he never even bothered to look at the script and is instead just winging it, thrashing his way through the production, consequences be damned.

Walken stars in Communion as Whitley Streiber, a real-life author with books that include Wolfen and The Hunger, both of which were turned into movies. Those two books are classified as fiction, but Streiber claims that Communion is a true story that really happened to him. And that’s a bit hard to swallow, especially when watching this movie.

In Communion, Streiber, his wife (Lindsay Crouse) and son (Joel Carlson), and some family friends go to a cottage in the woods for a weekend getaway. But late at night, bright lights flood in through the windows, and the next day, the family friends want to leave. They can’t explain why, they’re just nervous and want out. This kicks off a series of events in which Streiber keeps having strange, surreal dreams – or are they memories? He starts to think he might be going crazy, but after meeting with a psychiatrist and undergoing hypnosis, he begins to believe that he was abducted by aliens.

And we get to see the aliens here, and boy, some of them are not what you expect. There are two types of aliens that Streiber encounters. There’s a species that looks like the more familiar “grey” aliens – skinny, long-limbed creatures with almond-shaped heads and big black eyes. Only these aliens are not grey, they’re pink. Also, they seem to be made of rubber? Or latex? In any case, they flail around like they don’t have bones, and flap their hands as if they’re dancing. Then there is a group of squat, round aliens with huge heads. At first, they’re expressionless. But late in the movie, these aliens – which are nicknamed “Little Blue Doctors” –  suddenly have rounded lips that appear as if they’re constantly puckering up for a kiss. I don’t know if this is intentional, or just a case of the film not having a big enough budget to make aliens with more expressive faces. In any case, it’s weird as fuck, and looking at those big puckered alien lips kind of made me want to die.

You could make a more straightforward alien abduction movie with this story, and I’m sure that’s exactly how it read on paper when everyone got their scripts. But Walken’s performance is so utterly perplexing that it takes Communion to a whole other level. Walken spends the entire film muttering and vamping, saying lines that have no real connection to anything that’s going on in the scenes he’s in. “It looks like you’re going to sing ‘White Christmas’!” he tells the aliens just before they’re about to give him an anal probe. What the fuck does that even mean, Christopher Walken?

Walken struts around wearing a giant hat at one point, uses weird accents at random, constantly fights with his wife, and then the film climaxes with what can only be described as a dance party, where Walken boogies around inside the spaceship and the aliens sort of dance with him. None of this is good, exactly, but it’s so weirdly fascinating – the way a horrible, fatal car accident that’s blocking traffic for miles is fascinating – that you’ll find yourself transfixed. The biggest flaw here is probably young actor Joel Carlson, who is atrocious as Streiber’s whiny, wise-cracking son. But you don’t watch Communion for the kid. You watch it for Walken, and Walken delivers. I just have no idea what it is he’s delivering.

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