DVD Review: ‘The Encounter’

Colin Bastrow (Clint James) is the only known survivor after a weekend camping trip with his wife and friends takes an unbelievable turn for the worse. Thanks to camera footage from multiple sources; including Colin, a couple hunters, and a park ranger named Alice (Eliza Kiss); the events leading up to Colin’s discovery are slowly revealed and provide an intriguing and even chilling thrill ride for any horror fan in The Encounter.

The film is fanciful and far from flimsy in the face of the fundamental flaws frequented from “found footage” films. There are some genuine scares that made me jump. Some of the scares, however, are predictable and kind of ruined by the stupidity that the characters display in the face of terror. As is often the case in horror movies, this movie has characters that will run toward certain death instead of fleeing for their lives. For example, there is one scene where Colin and the 2 female campers are in their car trying to convince the other guy to get in and leave. Naturally, something happens to the guy outside the car (which, while predictable, was fairly scary). But what happens seconds later, not even time for the danger to clear itself, is bewildering.

The Encounter, from director Robert Conway, is the latest entry in the “found footage” genre. Movies in this genre can be entertaining despite some inherent problems in the narrative. One of the biggest issues being: when weird, otherworldly stuff starts to happen, who would keep filming instead of dropping the camera and running? Paranormal Activity seemingly overcame this when they popularized the use of security cameras in a haunted house. But, The Encounter is set primarily in the wilderness and stable cameras don’t really work for a wilderness setting; though they do make good use of a dashboard camera and a chest-mounted camera. Conversely, with hand-held cameras, if they do drop the camera and run, the audience is left with an image of the trees or the sky and maybe something passes within the frame.

The acting is pretty good and on par with other top notch “found footage” movies, like V/H/S or Cloverfield or that oft referenced movie featuring Heather, Mike, and Josh which basically started the whole craze. My favorite segments in The Encounter featured the park ranger, Alice. Her solo scenes provide the most realistic and even tragic moments. The makeup and special effects offer some visually stimulating moments. The story/script feels rushed in certain scenes, but it was enjoyable overall and one I would recommend to fans of the genre.

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