Few filmmakers have influenced cinematic language and defined the iconoclasm of movies more than Steven Spielberg; his stylishness and sensibilities have been aped so often they have derived entire criteria of reference wherein a formal flourish or visual gag will be dubbed “Spielbergian.” Dark Encounter, a supernatural drama about a family coping with the disappearance of their daughter as strange phenomena begin occurring in their town, is the latest in this tradition. As its title suggests, Dark Encounter is most beholden to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, though it approaches the theme of attention from otherworldly visitors with a decidedly darker view. Rather than bask in wonder and awe—a decidedly Spielbergian motif—Dark Encounter reorients its focus to the absence and loss felt by those left behind. Eventually, this somber reflection is substituted for tension and horror as the remaining family members disappear one by one, almost like they were getting picked off in a slasher movie. But like the relentless glowing lights that torment the family, not all is as it seems.
“…takes place in a small, isolated house where an already traumatized family is terrorized by faceless, voiceless intruders…”
Dark Encounter manages to feel like a large film despite its intimate setting and choice to observe the human responses to larger than life events rather than to the events themselves. The majority of the film takes place in a small, isolated house where an already traumatized family is terrorized by faceless, voiceless intruders; the intruders, in this case, being glowing orbs of blue and amber light, a visual cribbed directly from Close Encounters. Consequently, the core of the film felt largely like an extended version of the Barry abduction sequence from Spielberg’s film, but without the levity and sense of humor, his camera can’t help but capture. Dark Encounter, on the other hand, does not let up and basks in the horrifying reality of a home invasion, by supernatural forces no less. The imagery used to depict these encounters is inarguably striking and effectively plays off the dread of the family. When doors are closed, the light seeps in through the cracks; innocuous household objects spontaneously come to life and take on disturbing, uncanny qualities. Sound familiar?
"…approaches the theme of attention from otherworldly visitors with a decidedly darker view."