DreadWorld Review: The Encounter (2015)

Before we even get started, let me preface by saying this is not a review of the 2010 film of the same name starring, among others Steve Borden - better known as professional wrestler Sting. That is a religious based film that simply based on the subject matter, is certainly as scary as the 2015 version of The Encounter. The latter of which is a found footage Sci-Fi/Horror hybrid about a crash landed UFO and the repercussions those in it's proximity face.

The Encounter begins at the end, well almost, with a naked Collin (Clint James) being discovered by paramilitary types curled up on the forest floor. So right off the bat - there's some Clint James butt for the ladies. Sadly, the thrills go downhill from there. We rewind 36 hours and meet a fully clothed Collin, his girlfriend Kim (Megan Drust) and two of their friends as they set out on a camping trip - on the very mountain on which the UFO crashed. Elsewhere, isolated Park ranger Alice (Eliza Kiss) is heading over to what she thinks is a typical meteor landing, determined to document the experience for her video blog. Finally, our triad of stories rounds out with Trevor and Duncan leaving for an hunting expedition on the mountain. Eventually, two of these stories dovetail together late in the third act. The second story is dropped fairly quickly, and serves only to illustrate some fairly cool special effects.

I know what most folks are thinking. It's like that Simpsons episode "It's Come To This - A Simpsons Clip Show." It's come to this a found footage alien crash landing story. And truthfully, in concept it's not a terrible idea. A bunch of folks caught on a mountain slowly being corrupted by the new alien influence. It's certainly better than being trapped on a mountain while a volcano shoots out lava zombies (I'm looking at you The Burning Dead). But the one thing that The Encounter can't shake is the found footage conceit regarding why the camera is still running. It's the trap that most found footage horror films fall into. As a viewer we are supposed to believe that these characters, these people, find themselves in a life or death situation. Yet, their main priority isn't saving their lives - it's keeping the camera rolling.

I know why film makers use this technique (budget), and when executed properly it can be extremely effective. However it's just become far too common place to stick a GoPro on someones head because it's cheap - narrative be damned. In filmmaker Robert Conways defense he comes up with One and half plausible reasons for three of his characters to be filming while shit goes down. Alice filming after her encounter is completely justified. She's a vlogger, park ranger, borderline scientist - fine I'm in. Collin filming throughout the trip is a stretch, but he is a film maker, and professor. It's thin, but I'll buy it. Where reality gets totally thrown out the window is having Trevor filming his hunting trip with Duncan. Why is he filming? Beats me. Isn't hunting usually just 8 hours of waiting and 5 minutes of excitement? To make things worse, Trevor just doesn't have one camera - he has two, a handheld cam and a GoPro strapped to his head.

Found footage issues aside, The Encounter does contain some genuinely creepy moments. It's creatures are rather well realized considering the films (probably) micro budget. The actors performances run the usual indie fare gambit of pretty good from the main cast to "ouch. that hurts" from some of the supporting cast. Writer/Director Conway holds things together pretty well for a film that easily could have gone off the rails pretty damn quickly, and shows a definite visual flair while doing so.

The Encounter is a fairly good idea that is executed pretty well. Unfortunately, it is dragged down by the fact it was made a a found footage film. It's a shame that film makers are almost forced to fit their films into the found footage sub-genre simply because of (what I presume are) budgetary considerations. A film like The Encounter would have been served better as just a straight narrative exercise rather than a found footage film. The film hits DVD and VOD via Uncork'd Entertainment on June 5th. Check it out and support indie horror. If enough folks do - maybe talented film makers like Robert Conway won;t have to resort to strapping a GoPro on someones head to make a movie.

**1/4 stars out of *****

*bonus 1/4 star for mentioning Jeffersonville, NY, which is only about 15 minutes away from where this review is being written. That's it for me. As always - thanks for reading and "Enjoy Every Sandwich."

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