Betty and Barney Hill (played by Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones) are a happily married couple living in New Hampshire in the mid-60s. They are both haunted by something that happened two years previously, while they were on vacation. They both remember something appearing in the sky over their car but they can’t remember anything that happened afterwards. They are both haunted by nightmares and a strong feeling that something terrible most have happened to them. Finally, they meet with Dr. Benjamin Simon (Barnard Hughes), who places them both under hypnosis. Only then does a clear picture start to emerge of what Betty and Barney believe happened as they both describe being abducted and experimented upon by aliens.
The UFO Incident is a very sober and serious account of the Hills’s abduction. It never takes a clear side as to whether Betty and Barney are remembering something that actually happened or if they’re just remembering elaborate dreams. That works to the film’s advantage, though it might disappoint those looking for a more dramatic take on the subject. This is a made-for-TV movie so don’t expect much from the special effects and the alien costumes look disappointingly cheap. The important thing, though, is that the film treat the Hills and their story with respect and James Earl Jones gives one of his best and most relatable performances as Barney. The film is as much about how even a good marriage can be threatened by stressful times as it is about the UFOs.
The UFO Incident is based on the non-fiction book, The Interrupted Journey by John G. Fuller, which purported to tell the story of the Hills and their abduction. The Hills were two of the first people to come forward with a story about being abducted by aliens. Much of the common elements that can be found in stories about alien abductions, like the little grey men, the medical experimentation, and the amnesia afterwards, began with the Hills’s account of what they believed happened to them in 1961. The Hills, who were active and highly respected in their community, were considered to be unusually credible witnesses, though Dr. Simon ultimately decided that Barney’s recollections of being on the UFO were probably influenced by Betty’s descriptions of her nightmares. Barney, himself, died in 1969, three years after the book was published. Betty remained active in the UFO community until her death in 2004.