Science fiction and horror provide useful metaphors for social tensions and trauma. Drawing heavily on Steven Spielberg classics Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Dark Encounter merges horror and sci-fi into an absorbing tale of a troubled family. Beginning with parents Ray (Mel Raido) and Olivia (Laura Fraser) discovering that their daughter Maisie is missing, a journey takes us into the disintegrating lives of this extended family. Ominous excursions into the woods by Ray and his brothers Billy (Sid Phoenix), Kenneth (Grant Masters) and Noah (Spike White) lead to (close) encounters with strange lights and further disappearances, while the homestead proves far from secure. Writer-director Carl Strathie and DOP Bart Sienkiewicz use long takes and soft focus to express the mysterious events, the second act of the film proceeding almost as a continuous set piece. The film then culminates with an almost trance-like finale that transports the viewer into a world made very strange yet still recognizable, making it a truly uncanny and eerie family drama, suffused with melancholy, loss and schisms.
Come To Daddy is a slow-burn and darkly comedic horror thriller of serious family issues. Beginning with a young man stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere, we follow this Norval Greenwood – Elijah Wood in a weird outfit – as he encounters his estranged father (Stephen McHattie). From here, all manner of strangeness ensues, including (very loud) bumps in the night, potentially fatal arguments and untrustworthy backstories. There is great chemistry between the leads, and writer-director Ant Timpson, who based the film on his own experiences following his father’s death, makes wonderful use of location. The mysterious house where the bulk of the action takes place is strange in appearance and serves as a physical manifestation of the maze Norval finds himself in. There is a fine supporting cast of strange locals including Ronald Plum (Garfield Wilson), Gladys (Madeleine Sami), Brian (Martin Donovan), Jethro (Michael Smiley) and Precious (Ona Grauer), who add further scares and laughs to the proceedings. Tension and gore are used precisely, including the most hilarious groin stabbing you’re likely to see, as well as some pointed treatment of an exposed brain. The great horror scholar Robin Wood argued that the principal source of all horror is family, and in this case family is the cause of horror and hijinks with results that are bloody, and bloody good.