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First Look Review - THE ENCOUNTER

Found footage alien invasion thriller.


Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Robert Conway

Starring: Clint James, Owen Conway, Megan Drust, Eliza Kiss




"While at times the film comes across as a mash up of the likes of RecThe Fourth Kind and, yes, The Blair Witch Project, it’s a well put together mash up, with stand-out scenes of its own. If you like horror with a nasty edge, and found footage with a sense of determination, then this is a close encounter of the entertaining kind."


In the opening moments of writer/director Robert Conway’s lo-fi science fiction horror The Encounter, a portentous series of subtitles relate ominous statistics regarding ‘unexplained’ phenomena, setting the tone for this realistic found footage flick and warning us that in 2012, 3600 unidentified aerial objects were sighted, a figure which has increased to 6000 in the past three years! Yikes! Well, here’s another statistic; by my reckoning, within same time frame there seems to have been at least twice as many found footage films released, and no sign of abatement! Is The Encounter yet another rendezvous with shaky cam inconsequence, or is this appointment a little more engaging?
An aspect that sets The Encounter apart is the multiple narrative approach; chief plot thread sees camera wielding pest Collin (Clint James), along with his pal Trevor (Owen Conway) and their respective girlfriends (Megan Drust and Paulina Vallin), take to the mountains of North Arizona on a weed fuelled camping trip. In the area at the same time is perky ranger Alice (a delightful Eliza Kiss), a couple of grizzled hunters and, most urgently, a crashed spaceship with a stealthy squad of homicidal extra-terrestrials. The film shifts between the disparate groups, capturing their various close encounters with the aliens.
While it is fair to argue that The Encounter breaks no new ground during its fraught trek through the alien infested bluffs, it is nonetheless a fun trip. The most intriguing storyline involves Alice, and her appalling infection by the toxic goo that oozes about the ship’s crash site. This part of the film leans towards body horror, and Alice’s story is both scary and sad. I would have liked to have seen more of this thread, as while the main plot involving Collin and co is entertaining, it isn’t quite as effective as Alice’s slow decline. All the hallmarks of found-footage are there in Collin’s tale, though: as chief camera pointer, Collin is obnoxiously invasive, and a lot of his footage seems to focus on trying to get Kimberly to take her clothes off, which simply slows the film down (a complaint would be that the girlfriends seem to be there simply to appease an adolescent male audience; they don’t do much else than scream when necessary and look sexy the rest of the time). However, there is much to enjoy in The Encounter; the look of the aliens and their various accoutrements is quite striking, and there is a sense of an existing ecology/biology evident in the film which adds to their threat (the influence of the post-Giger of Prometheus is clear). For a film of a low budget pedigree, the effects are always credible. Also, the film has a bit more thematic substance than the usual running scared in the woods stuff; regarding the final plot point, there is a keen irony in the fate of the hunters-who-become-the-hunted (not so tough now you’re not up against defenceless animals, eh lads?), and the macho Old Testament musings of one hunter serves to explore the ‘we are not alone’ theme from a curious religious angle.
While at times the film comes across as a mash up of the likes of Rec, The Fourth Kind and, yes, The Blair Witch Project, it’s a well put together mash up, with stand-out scenes of its own. There is an especially creepy moment wherein the aliens attack the gang in their car, the headlights (barely) illuminating the surroundings, and the various plot lines ensure that this eerie film is pacey and involving. If you like horror with a nasty edge, and found footage with a sense of determination, then this is a close encounter of the entertaining kind.



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