THE AURORA ENCOUNTER
A Texas Film Spotlight
When looking into the vast genre of Texas horror films, I stumbled across The Aurora Encounter. Granted it’s more on the sci-fi side, it’s still a fun watch for fans of horror, aliens and Texas. It’s a strange film that has some interesting elements and I think it deserves a little attention. First of all, it’s based on “true events” as recorded by multiple credible sources, in the town of Aurora, in the late 1800s. A UFO was claimed to have been sighted by many of the town’s citizens, including the town doctor who allegedly attempted to save the alien’s life, after a crash into a silo. The present day Aurora Cemetery is a historical site, with a plaque recording the so-called incident. There is also a grave marker, where the alien is said to have been buried. In 2008, efforts were made to try and exhume the remains, but the cemetery did not give permission. Radar was used to see what may be buried there, but the remains are in such a condition, that they were not able to determine what exactly is down there.
And so I’ll review this odd film that attempts to re-enact those events. It was 1986 and the world was enamored with aliens. Four years earlier, E.T. was wildly popular, and the cute and cuddly alien had stolen everyone’s heart. This movie is not E.T., so don’t get caught up in the poster’s promise, and go in expecting less. Still, I think there are some reasons to watch.
The top draw to this film may be seeing an adult George McFarland — a.k.a “Spanky” from the Our Gang/ Little Rascals series. He was nearly unrecognizable and his part as the governor is small, but there was something familiar around the eyes and you’ll have an “a-ha” moment, once you realize you’ve spotted him.
A second reason to watch this film is the support from character actors. Jack Elam (Once Upon A Time In The West, High Noon) is an actor that adds a bit of old fashioned western credibility to his role as the town snake oil salesman, Charlie. He sells Dr. Neptune’s Elixir, which the alien seems to enjoy drinking.
Country superstar Dottie West plays the widow, Irene. We almost get some cheesecake shots, as she gets ready for bed, and the little alien spies on her silhouette as she brushes her hair behind a shaded window. You’ll laugh out loud, when you see that she is wearing pantaloons that go past her knees. Nothing R-rated to see here.
I take back the top draw to this film, being the adult “little rascal”. The top draw to this film, hands down is the alien (credited as The Spaceman). The actor who played the alien, Mickey Hays, was a happy-go-lucky kid, even though he had a life-shortening illness, progeria. In the 80s, he was often seen on the talk show circuit, telling the world about his rare disease, which was aging him rapidly. Progeria causes baldness, gray hair, and wrinkles. 90% of people with the disease die before 13, but Mickey managed to survive until 20. He was 14 when he made this film. To see more about his life, see the made for television documentary, I Am Not a Freak. I was completely fascinated. The documentary includes a trip to Disneyland and a glimpse into his relationship with Aurora co-star, Elam. Some would suspect that Mickey was exploited in his movie role. It was said that the only makeup used on him were a pair of prosthetic ears. It seemed like the kid was outgoing and friendly, and I suspect he enjoyed his moment in the spotlight, after watching his segment in the documentary. Jack Elam and Mickey continued their friendship for over a decade, after the making of this film.
The movie was filmed around Dallas and Waxahachie. That elevates The Aurora Encounter in my book — since we all can tell when a movie is filmed in a Hollywood backlot — if you look carefully, you will get a glimpse of some familiar buildings and landscape.
The slow parts are s-l-o-w. Things pick up a bit, when the kiddos of the town are in danger and the little alien comes to their rescue. At that point in the film, the town loves him and we love him too. BUT WAIT! Just when your heart is warmed, it happens. I won’t tell you what it is, but take my word for it, stick around.
If you endure The Aurora Encounter to the end, you will be rewarded with a JAW DROPPING ending that will leave you shaking your head and wishing you had some of Dr. Neptune’s elixir.
WHY IT’S WORTH YOUR TIME: Based on true (?) events, aliens, a moon-dog, weird western, plenty of 80s plasma globe effects, famous people (a few who can actually act), charming kids, ending that will make you lose your mind!
Available on DVD and VHS formats. Check out the trailer…
— Juliet Jones, Guest Writer, Blood Over Texas