Traumafession:: Kevin M. on the Unblinking Stare in Encounter with the Unknown

ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNKNOWN is a largely forgotten 1973 anthology horror film that today’s viewers will dismiss as cheap, stupid, boring and clumsy.

But many Kindertrauma readers will remember Mrs. Davis. (Either from the movie or previous posts.)

ENCOUNTER makes the most of its unknown actors, because it’s a 70s docu-drama (like those low-budget Bigfoot movies where they feature documentary style re-enactments with supposedly true stories.) Actress Fran Franklin doesn’t have any other credits. She IS Mrs. Davis, the same way Billy Redden IS the banjo kid from DELIVERANCE. You wouldn’t want a famous actor like Meryl Streep in the role, that would just remind you it’s “only a movie.”

So here’s my super-cut of every one of Mrs. Davis’ moments in the film. She has one line in entire movie. But the filmmakers must’ve known she was the breakout star, because they kept going back to her with flashback after flashback. (Seriously, this movie has more recaps than an episode of the E! True Hollywood Story!)

ENCOUNTER is obsessed with the number 7: the power of the 7-sided heptagon, she’s the 7th daughter of a 7th son. And while making this super-cut I realized: she comes back in 7 flashbacks (!!!!!!!)

Without a doubt Mrs. Davis is the most memorable part of the film. She’s even featured on the cover of the DVD.

Anyone who grew up watching this movie is probably haunted by the Davis monologue (which is fitting since this segment of the movie is about being haunted by the memory of that very moment.) Probably because SHE NEVER BLINKS!

She holds the camera’s gaze for 31 seconds with her wide-eyed stare. That’s longer than cinema’s longest stare-downs like Vincent D’Onfrio in FULL METAL JACKET, Jake Gyllenhall in DONNIE DARKO or even the Diner-lady in THE BIRDS.

Anyone with access to can blow-off the 3 urban legends that make up this anthology movie. But I saw this when I was 9 years old. (Oddly enough, it was the first movie my Dad rented when we got our VCR. Not STAR WARS, not E.T., but ENCOUNTER WITH THE UNKNOWN.) I believed every word that Rod Serling narrated and I bought into the supernatural mysteries. Today I know better, but I still get the chills from Mrs. Davis unblinking stare.

NOTE: This video was edited as part of KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT DEADLY WOMEN. KEVIN GEEKS OUT is a monthly video variety show in Brooklyn, NY.

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Dan Budnik
6 years ago

One of my favorite anthologies ever. Mrs. Davis has my favorite moment in the film. With my 2nd favorite being when the narrator (not Rod Serling, the other narrator) is reading the opening crawl and he skips some lines. (The other great part is the Question-filled recap at the end.)

Put the American National Enterprises logo at the start of the movie and I’m in.

My review to prove my membership in the Mrs. Davis Forever Fan Club:

6 years ago

How have I never heard of this? And it features a Rod Serling voice-over!

It’s like I just moved at 90 degrees to the fourth dimension and landed in an alternate universe with totally new classic horror!

I feel like a horror-outsider. All of the cool horror-kids were flipping out to Mrs. Davis while I was off watching Battle of the Planets or something….. Wait – did you have Battle of the Planets in this dimension?

5 years ago

Chuckles72 — it’s funny how so few people have seen this film, but it certainly made an impression on those who saw it.

Dan — I liked your review!

Two things I’ve noticed:

First, they use two different takes. In the second take she says “Hectagon” not “Heptagon”

Second, I’m betting the original hex (in the script) called for her to say “1 by land, 2 by air” (not “1 by land, 2 by sky”) because “air” would rhyme with “there”. (As in “Look to the heptagon, it is there.”)