Gotham Group, the still relatively new production company that is most known presently for adapting the Maze Runner book series into feature films, has very recently announced its intension to produce a movie about Barney and Bettie Hill. The Hills were the first to report an alien abduction, which they claimed happened in September of 1961. The move to produce such a film is quite bold when considering not only the complex global situation the Hills were living in, but also what it could spell for a still up and coming production company that is banking on soft serve young adult movies that are still riding the Harry Potter wave.
Barney and Bettie Hills claim that on a car trip returning from Niagara Falls to their New Hampshire home, they spotted a UFO and pursued it. Afterwards they could not account for several hours of the night from memory, and during regression hypnotherapy they recalled being taken about the supposed craft and subjected to several medical tests. Besides this extraterrestrial stresses, Betty and Barney faced prejudice for being an interracial couple during the civil rights movement in the United States. To add on, the global politics climate was at an all-time high tension, amidst a Cold War that included several proxy wars, the completion and erection of the Berlin wall in August of 1961, and the economic aid treaty between US and South Korea of 1961 that led to our involvement in Vietnam. To say the least, life was stressful for the Hills even before their claimed abduction.
But, therein lies the possibility of a grand story to tell, especially on a film screen. The Hills’ story has already been made into a movie once before: The UFO Incident, a television movie in 1975 starring a young James Earl Jones. The UFO Incident merely focused on the alien angle however, leaving out the international strain; which very well could have caused them to unintentionally make up a story, if in fact it were false. What Gotham Group has here is an opportunity to integrate subcultures and perceived fringe societies into the mainstream by coupling their concerns with those as universal as the Cold War and Civil Rights. They could tell a straight, intense and spooky UFO story – along the lines of Fire in the Sky (1993) and Altered (2006) – paired with relatable concerns; a type of film rarely scene. There is also the chance that Gotham Group has excellent foresight, and can already see a reinvigorated popular interest in legitimate paranormal subjects as shows like X-files and Twin Peaks, which were shows that dabble in these stories before anyone else, rev up their reboots for the coming years – “Legitimate” here meaning X-files based a number of their scrips on real unsolved mysteries and unexplained phenomenon.
There is no denying that audiences recently feverishly flock to science fiction, even those who did not grow up watching and reading it. However, they are also just starting to voice their boredom with stale formats and way far-fetched premises. Audiences may deep down be craving a tense, almost believable paranormal tale to get under their skin once again. Gotham Group might actually bring that to them.