The Encounter (2015)
What a disappointment this film was!! I covered THE ENCOUNTER a couple times over the last few months as its release date drew near and I had my hopes up for this one. The f/x and makeup in the promotional stills looked decent and the story sounded promising. The film, though, stumbled right out of the gates and was never able to recover. What hurt this film the most was the completely unnecessary use of the found footage gimmick. There was a nugget of a decent story here, but it was covered in layers of nonsense.
THE ENCOUNTER follows three sets of people as they get ready to head off into the woods. The first are two couples, Collin (Clint James) and his finance Kimberly (Megan Drust), and Ryan (Louie Iaccarino) and Holly (Paulina Vallin). They planned a trip to the woods for some rest, relaxation, weed, and sex. There wasn’t anything special about either of these couples and writer-director Robert Conway does nothing to endear them to the viewer (more on this below). The second group that headed off to the woods were twenty-something Trevor (Owen Conway) and his step-dad Duncan (Dan Higgins). They were off to the woods to do some hunting. The third person we followed was Alice (Eliza Kiss). Alice was a forest ranger who was starting her shift. In each group, one person was always filming what everyone else was doing. Collin filmed just about everything he could point his camera at; Trevor fixed a camera to his hunting cap and on top of the scope on his rifle; and Alice must have had her camera sewn to her hand.
The first person to encounter a problem was Alice. She watched as a meteor crashed into the woods and decideed to track it down. When she got to the crash site it was obvious it wasn’t a meteor. Seriously, Helen Keller herself would’ve gotten the hell away from that site. Alice saw this egg-like sack open with all this weird looking shit in it, and what does she do. Exactly… she got the hell out of there. Wait, what? She didn’t run away? She poked it with a stick? Yup. Something flew out of the wreckage and stung her and it wasn’t long before she started feeling and looking like shit. Alice’s story was the most interesting, but unfortunately the actress who played Alice (Eliza Kiss) was terrible. How bad? Like, I-can’t-watch-her-because-I’m-embarrassed-for-her terrible.
Alice gets some kind of alien infection that spreads and it wasn’t long before our other two groups of campers and hunters either got attacked or succumbed to the infection themselves. I’m sorry to say that there was nothing special or interesting going on here. At all. We watch the two couples as they got stoned, filled around, and then got attacked by a creature. We watched the hunters as they came across something odd in the woods, tried to track it down, and then got attacked by a creature. The writing was lazy and there was absolutely zero character development. Very disappointing.
Most disappointing of all, though, was the completely useless and gratuitous use of found footage in THE ENCOUNTER. What was so disappointing about it? It was completely unnecessary and added absolutely nothing to the story. We all know that filmmakers utilize the found footage-style of filmmaking in order to cut down on production values, thereby making their film cheaper to produce. Let me give all you burgeoning indie filmmakers a tip. Making your film part of the found footage sub-genre just to keep production values low is not the reason to use the found footage style. The found footage added nothing to advance the story or develop the characters. It was here to keep this production cheap. Period.
After Conway wrote himself into a corner and exhausted all the cliches we’ve come to expect from this sub-genre, he then introduced new characters in the last act. These characters were introduced to explain what happened and what was going on. The story was so thin throughout the first three quarters of the movie that there was no real plot advancement. As we approached the end of the film, nothing was explained. Enter Dr. Margo Thompson (Monica Engesser) of the CDC. She proceeded to explain the entire plot in five minutes. I wished her role was in the beginning of the film so she could have saved me ninety minutes of my life. I won’t give away the ‘big reveal.’ It was kind of interesting, but it was so undeveloped in the script that it felt like they tagged it on in the end in an attempt to offer the audience some kind of payoff.
THE ENCOUNTER won’t be the worst film I’ll see this year, but it will definitely be one that I forget about come December. The acting was overall pretty amateurish with a few horrible standout performances. Conway, though, could’ve had Pacino, Streep, Patrick Stewart, and every other classical actor working today in this film and it still would’ve been terrible. The writing just wasn’t there. THE ENCOUNTER was full of underdeveloped, one-dimensional characters doing dumb things, and whom I could’ve cared less about if they died or not. The use of the found footage gimmick was just that; a gimmick. This story had no need to utilize found footage. It was pointless and made everything all the more awkward and amateurish. Some of the makeup f/x were pretty decent, but they weren’t nearly good enough to save this turkey. THE ENCOUNTER was on the level of a made-for-SyFy TV movie. Correction; THE ENCOUNTER was a level below a made-for-SyFy TV movie. That should say it all. Definitely skip this dud.
Director: Robert Conway (& writer)
Plot: 1 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer