Angry Nerd Movie Review: Encounter (2019)
Encounter is not your typical science fiction film. Writer/director Paul Salamoff’s debut does a lot of things; it intrigues, it provokes thought, it subverts expectations, and it provides a whole lot of classic sci-fi tropes that make you continually question what direction the film is going to take, but one thing it doesn’t do is disappoint. The subversion of expectations that takes place is the good kind, where you think you know what’s going to happen because you’ve seen it a hundred times before but then the plot veers off in an unforeseen direction.
Encounter stars Luke Hemsworth of HBO’s Westworld as wheelchair-bound Will Dawkins, estranged from his wife Jessica (played by Anna Hutchinson, who, funnily enough played the girlfriend of Chris Hemsworth in The Cabin in the Woods) and living with his sister Teresa (Cheryl Texiera – Suspense, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and her husband Brent (Glenn Keogh – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Once Upon a Time) in their garage. The film starts off with one of the classic tropes we’ve seen so many times – a group of friends drinking and discussing women in the woods when an object streaks across the sky and impacts a short distance away. In this instance, it’s Brent along with his friends Marcus Doyle (Vincent M. Ward – Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) and Johnny Brandt (Christopher Showerman – The Young and the Restless, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) manage to recover it from the field in which it landed, and have the brilliant idea to bring it home because it could be incredibly valuable. Again, something we’ve seen a thousand times before. Then another trope – Will volunteers to take first watch and after a bit of back and forth with Marcus, Will is indeed left alone with it.
That’s when things start to veer off in new and interesting directions, and it requires a more scientific approach. It is suggested that they bring in an expert from the local college, Professor Westlake played by the incomparable Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Fog, Night of the Creeps).
I will not spoil any of the plotlines for this film, as it has yet to be released. What I will say is that the way Salamoff weaves a whole bunch of story threads into a fantastic sci-fi tapestry is expertly done and with great intricacy. He knew what he wanted to do and set out to move his vision from page to screen. I got the opportunity to interview him about this film (which you’ll be able to hear very soon) and he discusses this in great detail and how he was able to slip in some Easter eggs to pay tribute to those writers, directors, actors, films, and television shows that had an influence on him.
Now I know I mentioned that this was the directorial debut for Paul, but it is certainly not his film debut. He did a whole lot of behind-the-scenes stuff on movies you’ve certainly seen. He did special effect for the following films: Ernest Scared Stupid, Critters 3, Critters 4, Batman Returns, Escape from LA, Batman and Robin, Dogma and many more. Given his background, he was able to bring his vision to life, particularly when it came to the creature design. No spoilers, but there were some obvious nods to certain sci-fi films that even the casual fan will appreciate. Because Paul has worn so many hats in so many different genres of films he was uniquely qualified to create his film at the level of quality that he had intended to achieve.
Long story short, I highly recommend this film. You should certainly check it out when it comes to blu-ray and VOD. Personally, I think you should pick up the physical media because it’s got a lot of special features including documentaries. I’ll have my copy the day it comes out because I pre-ordered it after talking with Paul and watching the film myself. The acting is great, the way the actors have really taken on the roles and made them their own is a testament not only to their skill but the writing and directing Paul provides. One of the things that he told me was that he didn’t carry ego into the equation because he knew that while he had a very specific vision for the film, there’s always a direction or a thought process that you can’t see because you can’t get into everyone’s head and anticipate how they’re going to make the characters their own, or put their own spin on a line of dialogue. I think the best films come from when writers and directors truly collaborate with their crew and their actors, and this is a perfect example of that.
Watch the trailer!