What is it with found footage, eh? It’s been a major trend – or gimmick, rather – in horror for about a generation now, and I’m still waiting to see one with characters you could stand spending a weekend with. Most of the time it’s hard enough spending just ninety minutes with them. But to give it its due, The Encounter has some OK characters – maybe not people I’d be best friends with for real, but they stand out as exemplary for their genre.
The film ends up being generally better than one would expect after a bit of a slow start with the usual found footage stuff: people being annoying, shaking the camera around, engaging in a bit of sexy teasing, and filming things that no-one would really find interesting. Actually to make things more implausible there are three different groups of unrelated people in this film, each of whom just happens to film the night’s events: four friends on a camping trip, a Park Ranger named Alice (Eliza Kiss), and a couple of hunters, one old and one young, played by Dan Higgins and Owen Conway respectively. But when Alice gets goo sprayed on her by a pulsating, caviar-filled egg that some unscrupulous alien has left out in the woods, things start to take a turn for the worse for all seven of them, not that it stops anyone from filming everything.
While I’ll admit that I didn’t go into The Encounter with high expectations, which is mostly on me for a personal prejudice against found footage films, it pleasantly surprised me. The acting is of a high standard almost across the board, though you will have to forgive the scientist who appears at the end. The dialogue is pleasantly light and believable, avoiding the sort of telegraphed exposition that you’re usually guaranteed to hear whenever doomed characters go off into the woods for booze, drugs and sex. The effects are creative and gory, and there are certain design concepts which, if not totally stepping out of the long shadow cast by Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, nevertheless offer a fresh twist. With all of that said it’s just a shame that the film’s final act reverted to some pretty goofy malevolent-alien clichés of the sort that the film up to that point had been so good at avoiding or subverting.
Keeping in mind the disappointing way in which The Encounter chooses to wrap up the intriguing tale it starts to weave, I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly. However, for a drunken late-night Netflix selection, you could certainly do much, much worse, and it’s worth keeping an eye on director Robert Conway.
So what do you think about The Encounter? Let us know in the box below and be sure to visit Christian’s site Mediocre Batman!