Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dark Encounter (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
It's a difficult time for Olivia (Laura Fraser) and husband Ray (Mel Raido) - one year since the disappearance of their 8-year-old daughter. They left her alone whilst they went out for the evening. She was a sensible kid and they had no reason to think that anything bad would happen to her in the safety of the family home, but when they got back, she wasn't there. Since then they've been trying constantly to find her and the need to use the anniversary to draw attention back to the search means they've been unable to put it out of their minds. Family and friends have gathered to support them. But that night, a series of unexpected and terrifying events will change their perspective on everything.
With its bombastic soundtrack and emphasis on special effects, this is a film so nakedly ambitious that it's difficult for it to avoid selling itself short. It's helmed by Carl Strathie, who made last year's Solis, and has a lot of the same problems, layering on so much drama that there's not enough opportunity to engage with one event before another comes along. It's also highly derivative, with nods to practically every major film out there about aliens threatening families or small towns, plus a dash of Interstellar. That said, Strathie succeeds in capturing a bit of the Spielberg-style magic he's aiming for and in quieter scenes where we're allowed to experience wonder instead of being told what to feel, it's an enchanting experience.
The actors (including canine star Lucy as family pet Genghis) know what they're doing and carry their roles well throughout, Fraser doing a good job of showing us Olivia's pain without letting it overwhelm other aspects of her character. They have the chemistry to be believable as a family unit so even though some of them don't get much room to develop, we care about their fate because we can see what they man to the others. The setting, an isolated house on the edge of woodland just outside of town, is perfect for this type of tale and also works with the modern narrative elements Strathie brings to bear.
There are mythological overtones to the whole that will fascinate sociologists, culminating in a speech which seems carefully pitched to avoid upsetting viewers' religious beliefs but can't escape feeling twee. Strathie succeeds in demonstrating his skill - especially if, as would appear to be the case, he's working with a tight budget - but the result is rather overcooked. Showing at this year's Frightfest, it's worth watching for the moments when everything else disappears and you're out there is the woods with strangers you're known forever and an unexplained light flickers in the distance, sending a shiver down your spine.Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2019