Dark Encounter: BRWC FrightFest Review
On the anniversary of a young girl’s disappearance, her grieving family return from a memorial service and struggle to heal. Over the course of the evening, each are drawn to a strange phenomenon in the skies above a nearby forest. Before long, the group are plagued by disappearances, disturbing visitations and painful revelations that shake the foundations of everything they know.
Trying to evoke Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters is a ballsy move for any filmmaker. Attempting to juggle Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar at the same time is where the entire concept falls apart. There are elements to Dark Encounter that one can truly appreciate.
The visual effects are fantastic, David Stone Hamilton’s score is luscious and stirring (if occasionally overcooked) and the use of light and colour within the fantastical parts (sidestepping spoilers) is jaw dropping. Unfortunately, Dark Encounter constantly plays a game of two steps forward, one steps back.
I’ve no doubt director Carl Strathie has an excellent film in him. Dark Encounter is a well-crafted Science Fiction flick with a round table of decent actors. It attempts to deal with themes of loss, blame and fractured families but trips over itself with its clever conclusion. Spending time within the fantastical wonder of the final reel is creatively rich and visually stimulating but there’s a darkness broiling beneath the surface that I wanted to see more of.
The cast are all solid with standout performances from Laura Fraser and Sid Phoenix. The heart-wrenching motivations being juggled by the ensemble are commendable, but the dialogue is often stilted and cliched. It all leads to a finale that is emotionally overwrought and entirely unearned. A mishmash of ill-fitting concepts that would have been more than enough if individually implemented. The ambition is admirable, but the leftfield turn doesn’t have the potency the filmmakers clearly intended.
Overall, Dark Encounter is worth a watch for the individual elements even if the movie isn’t quite worth the sum of its parts. That being said, I’m more than happy to settle down in a darkened theatre for Strathie’s next film project.
Dark Encounter is released on DVD & Digital on 21st October.
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