A group of aspiring Danish filmmakers, screaming at each other in the woods, chased and terrified by unseen forces. The spirit of The Blair Witch Project is strong with this one – so much so, in fact, that the kids feel compelled to talk about the found footage classic all the time, presumably to ward off accusations of theft. Pro-tip: you get to call it ‘homage’ if you acknowledge the film you’re ripping off throughout.
There’s more to Encounters than cheerily re-doing The Blair Witch Project though. Sure, it uses the same basic concept, structure and similar shocks, but as the title suggests, there’s more of a sci-fi edge to this one, leading to a final act that couldn’t be any more different to the relatively low-key sobbing and snot snuffling of Blair Witch’s finale. That’s spoiler territory though, and we’d encourage viewers to dive in and let the film’s surprises unfold firsthand.
Separating this from the rest of the found footage chaff out there is a likeable cast, good acting (Kristian Fjord stands out above all) and a cheeky sense of humour playing throughout. The sense of ambition is appreciated, even more so when one learns of the film’s troubled production history – so much coincidence and bad luck, the behind the scenes story of Encounters reading like the plot of an X-Files episode at times. The dedication to getting the film made is felt where most would have given up, extending to stolen and destroyed equipment, serious Lyme disease and leg injury for director Anders Johannes Bukh, closed shooting locations and an eerie trend of real life mirroring the movie’s plot. It’s no Heart of Darkness, but it’s up there with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for tough shoots. And those woods look pretty cold too.
Encounters isn’t massively original, but it is very well made, smart and – crucially – scary. In addition to the multiple jump scares, there’s a lingering creepiness that’s up there with its idolised Blair Witch Project. Found footage gets a bad rap these days, but when the subgenre is good, it has the potential to be really good. Thankfully, this one is an encounter of the best kind.
ENCOUNTERS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ANDERS JOHANNES BUKH / STARRING: KRISTIAN FJORD, JACOB WAGNER GULDAGER, CASPER SLOTH, SIGNE MATHILDE SØRENSEN / RELEASE DATE: TBA