DARK ENCOUNTER ** UK 2019 Dir: Carl Strathie. 98 mins
Here’s an ill-conceived British attempt at an American-set sci-fi movie featuring a bunch of British actors with American accents. It’s 1982 and in Pennsylvania, eight-year-old Maisie goes missing from her home while her parents are out for dinner. The girl’s uncle oversees the investigations as town Sheriff while widespread power outages inconvenience the county. One year later, her mother (Laura Fraser) and Fraser’s sister (Alice Lowe, wasted in a dull, reactive role) are among those gathered at home when electrical failures, lights in the sky and further disappearances all point toward extra-terrestrial intervention.
Unsympathetic, under-written characters mar this plodding collage of various episodes of THE X FILES and M Night Shyamalan’s SIGNS. It aims for a sense of awe with some of its major plot reveals and does so with acceptable CGI for this budget level, but the ultimate visual of a shiny, tall, humanoid alien in the closet is underwhelming. Atmospheric moments fleetingly relieve the po-faced dullness, but the slack pacing takes it to another dimension of tedium when the laughable slo-mo kicks in. A key plot turn also turns the movie into an entirely different, sentimental and corny affair and it ends up resembling one of those Lifetime movies in which Dean Cain looks earnest and handsome in a snowy small town while doing everything he can to ensure that the homeless man (Tom Waits, if he’s free) living on his street learns the true meaning of Christmas.
Review by Steven West