In a time where the found footage genre is seeming to wear thin for even its most staunch supporters, new films like these simply have to do something different from the ordinary to stand out. The Encounter, a new film from writer/director Robert Conway, is unfortunately not able to achieve this, and instead only manages to offer audiences more of the same tropes and tricks that we’ve seen many times over.
The Encounter opens with what we are led to believe is a meteor crash in the woods of Arizona. Of course it ends up not being a meteor at all, as several people who happen to be in the woods at the wrong time soon find out. The film follows a park ranger who investigates the crash site; two hunters; a filmmaker, his girlfriend, and two friends who are out on a camping trip.
Though some of these characters eventually meet up later in the film, the first half of The Encounter feels a bit fractured and disjointed because of all the different storylines happening at the same time. Collin, the filmmaker, is arguably the main character, and the focus of the story is on him and his relationship with his girlfriend, Kimberly. The other characters are each given some great standout sequences to appear in, but they are not fleshed out as much as the core four people (who still aren’t really that fleshed out at all), and seem to be there just to drive the plot forward. The park ranger Alice suffers the most from this. She is the one who makes the always dumb mistake of poking the strange organism that came out of the crashed alien spaceship and becomes the first victim of the strange “infection” in the movie. It is horrible what happens to her, but it would have been much more meaningful for the audience if they had gotten to know her better before she got sick.
That’s another weird thing about The Encounter. There are definitely aliens in the movie (as one important scene that is ruined by the trailer shows) but they are treated in the film more like an infection that causes gross physical transformation in the victims, and not so much like entities that attack or abduct people. This is a cool concept that really should have been explored and explained much more than the small epilogue we are given for the conclusion, which doesn’t really tell us anything. How does the infection work and what exactly does it do? Why are they infecting humans? What is the ultimate goal? So many questions and not nearly enough answers.
There is a nice double ending that makes the audience look back at the film and some of the characters in a slightly different way, but all together, things fall a little flat with this one. The film doesn’t give the audience enough time or information to really get to know or care about the characters, and therefore, they probably won’t care that much when they see what happens to them. There is no suspense, and the movie too often relies on overused and quite ineffective jump scares that are not scary at all. The Encounter is a technically well-executed film, but even fans of the found footage subgenre probably won’t be impressed with this one.
The Encounter will be released on DVD and VOD June 2, 2015.
WICKED RATING: [usr 4]
Director: Robert Conway
Stars: Clint James, Owen Conway, Megan Drust
Writer: Robert Conway
Production Company: FunHouse Features
Length: 85 Mins