Today is the day for ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNKNOWN. I have no excuse for not watching this regional anthology sooner as it has been creeping around these pages for some time. Our buddy Crafty Pants Carol included it in her “It’s a Horror to Know You” and “Creepy Lady Faces” posts and it has been the sought after answer in Name That Trauma’s from as far back as Bigwig’s in 2010 and as recent as Steve Q’s from earlier this week. What was I waiting for, a written invitation? And so watch it I did and now here I am all in your face pressuring you to follow suit…
Narrated by the legendary ROD SERLING, this TWILIGHT ZONE inspired grab-bag of supernatural yarns is admittedly tame by standards of both today and yesteryear though that doesn’t necessarily curb its ability to offer a few chills. Anyone who grew up in the seventies is likely to get at least a nostalgic buzz from the film’s overall eerie vibe. I myself felt right at home with this flick or more specifically, right at home in my backyard, in a tent, at the age of twelve, holding a flashlight in my shaky hand. In other words you could probably knit this together with faves THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK and SCREAMS OF A WINTER NIGHT into one big five hour long scarf of a movie and I doubt anyone would notice the seams.
Oh sure, its flawed up the wazoo, it shamelessly pads its running time by showing the same scenes over and over again but you’re either charmed by such things or you wouldn’t be watching it in the first place. I believe the movie’s persistence in showing up time and again around these parts is proof enough of its effectiveness. It may be shoddy and makeshift but there’s something spooky enough going on here to make it sticky. Maybe its pure nostalgia, I could almost hear the theme to “IN SEARCH OF…” while I watched and that’s good enough for me. You won’t believe any of these “true stories” but you’ll be reminded of when you might have.
ENCOUNTER was directed by HARRY THOMASON who has several semi-forgotten Arkansas –set drive-in spookers under his belt (REVENGE OF BIGFOOT, SO SAD ABOUT GLORIA, THE DAY IT CAME TO EARTH) and remarkably went on to great television success as a producer, director and writer (THE FALL GUY, DESIGNING WOMEN, and not so much with EMERIL) and a prolific partnership with his wife LINDA BLOODWORTH THOMASON. Believe it or not, 20 years after the release of ENCOUNTER, THOMASON would be all kinds of chummy with the President of the United States Bill Clinton and even testifying on his behalf before the Grand Jury during the Lewinsky scandal. Who’da thunk?