You can do pretty amazing things with lower budgets if your heart, storytelling technique and ambitions are in the right place and Carl Strathie’s Dark Encounter is a glowing example of that. This is a wonderful, emotionally devastating amalgamation of classic alien abduction/UFO stylistics and deeply heartfelt interpersonal family drama that wears its influences (everything from Nolan’s Interstellar to Spielberg’s Close Encounters) lovingly on its sleeve. It tells the story of a large family sometime in the 60’s or so who get home one night to find their young daughter missing. Flash forward one year later, they are still grieving her loss and trying to deal with the lack of closure, and as they all gather at her parent’s place to try and heal, strange things begin to happen. Lights in the sky and in the forests around their property, massive flocks of birds vacating the area en-massé, and mysterious spacecrafts hovering over their abode. Was their daughter abducted by aliens, who have now returned to torment the rest of her kin? I won’t say another word about the story beyond that except to say that at this point things get *really* interesting and completely unexpected. This is a beautifully made film full of unbelievably innovative special effects when you consider the budget, everything from iridescent strobe lights emanating from the floorboards to haunting points of light dancing on the edge of the forest’s horizon to a jaw dropping immersive sequence where our POV zooms out for a breathtaking visual voyage into the far reaches of the cosmos, a journey both inwards and outwards that reminded me, in spirit, of both Kubrick’s 2001 and Malick’s The Tree Of Life. I have to warn any viewer that this is a gut punch of a story that deals in subjects matter both tragic, disturbing and is tough to watch, but the process, execution and artistic forces at work are remarkable. The film’s score might be the best I’ve heard in a long time, an expansive auditory soundscape that encapsulates everything from the eerie to the experimental to the emotionally orchestral that digs your heartstrings right out of your chest. The cast are all perfect, with Laura Fraser and Mel Raido giving soulful work as the girl’s tormented parents, and an appearance by the always awesome Vincent Reagan, this role being perhaps the first time I’ve ever seen him in cinema without a sword in his hand. This is a fantastic film for anyone who appreciates spooky, atmospheric UFO themed storytelling, very well acted family drama and an unexpected, highly affecting narrative that I promise you will not guess ahead of time. Great film.