Fresh from its debut at this year’s FrightFest, the acclaimed sci-fi thriller Dark Encounter will soon be arriving on DVD and Digital HD thanks to Signature Entertainment. Set in 1982, the film is an alien-abduction thriller set in a small rural town after the mysterious disappearance of an 8-year-old girl, her grieving family spot strange lights in the forest nearby their home.
Set to gain comparisons to E.T, Stranger Things, The X-Files and more, but Dark Encounter is its own beast and is well worth seeking out.
We sat down with writer/director Carl Strathie and producer Charlette Kilby to chat about the film, its genesis, the obvious comparisons with the aforementioned films and whether it will lead to something bigger down the road.
Scott J. Davis: Guys, thank you so much for your time today. So “Dark Encounter” takes place in 1982 and in the film world, this was something of a seminal film with E.T, The Thing, Blade Runner, Poltergeist and Tron all being released so I wondered if this was on purpose?
Carl Strathie: There is a reason but I think it was linked to E.T. Any dates or times in our films are never random, there’s always a reason and I think was definitely to do with E.T.
SJD: So this is your second film, has the process changed at all from the first to the second for both of you?
Charlette Kilby: I think so, this experience has been so much better. We learnt so much from the first film that you take those lessons over to the next one
CS: “Solis” was a bit of trial and error, asking “are we any good at this?” So that was all very stressful, a little bit of sleepwalking going on – we didn’t go to film school so we just made short films and then “Solis” was our first feature. That went well and sold worldwide, which shocked us – it wasn’t massive hit, but it was considered a success in that kind of way. With Dark Encounter, from a director’s point of view, it feels like a proper film, whereas “Solis” is one man, one location, and sometimes that was frustrating. This feels bigger.
SJD: The landscape of cinema and the way audiences consume films in 2019 is very different to, say, a decade ago. How do you feel about how the film is going to be seen, whether in cinemas or on-demand?
CS: It doesn’t need to be a “hit” necessarily to be a hit. If someone came to us and said we were going with Netflix I’d be delighted. For us, if one person says they liked it, I’m happy.
CK: However they see it, as long as people connect with it some way then we have done our job. It’s all storytelling, isn’t it? It’s about transporting people away from their lives and if we do they, great.
SJD: With this film, you’ve gone from a one-man show to a big ensemble piece. Does that your jobs harder with more people on top of the fact it’s you second film?
CS: I’d say easier. “Solis” was really difficult because —- was on his own, and it was very hard for him as he has no actors to bounce off as you would normally so when the director’s busy he has no-one to talk to and that was hard because it was almost like I had to be another actor with him. But on this, you have this ensemble working together so this felt much better having more than one.
SJD: Dark Encounter feels like a perfect blend of 80’s fantasy tales mixed with much more adult fare more akin to Stanley Kubrick or more modern films of this ilk. Was that always the plan or was this a plethora of ideas that came together?
CS: The oldest memory I have of this was when I was around 11, I was sitting on a picnic bench in the middle of nowhere and there was this huge field at the back. I sat and watched it and was listening to maybe the “Signs” soundtrack and imagining UFO’s. That’s the kid in me, the adult side of me was very much “Close Encounters” and so the first half is very much an 80’s story and the second half, which was a separate idea I had at the time, became much more adult that, we hope, is surprising as to where it goes.
SJD: For you as the producer Charlette, when Carl comes to you with his ideas, how difficult is it to put into action and pull off the way that you have done?
CK: Well, luckily Carl is a producer too so he has that mindset anyhow so in the concept and writing stage he would also say “This one isn’t for us, it would cost too much money” or it will be too hard and keep within the confines of what we can and cannot do.
SJD: What will surprise audiences is that you shot the film in the UK when it is very much an American based story, so you had us fooled. How did you manage to pull this all off?
CS: For us it was all about the script and we had written it as American set which would cost more but my mindset is “If it’s going to sell more?” then why not as America provides a bigger scope.
CK: It’s also so hard to get Americanised movies made in the UK, people pass it up and it’s not the content they want, there’s more a want for British dramas and British-set content but we’re just not like that. We’ve never written a script that was British so we come from that angle.
CS: It’s feels like Christopher Nolan in that way in that he’s from the UK but his scripts from Memento onwards are very Americanised but they are still rooted in Britain in some shape or form and that’s what we tried to do. Here’s rare, one in a million, that get to move from Memento to Batman to Interstellar, you know?
SD: This was no doubt made on a small budget and a tight schedule – do you see yourself jumping into a big franchise or a bigger film with the next one or are you quiet content in making films like this where you get final say on the how and why?
CS: If I was to do this size of film for the rest of my life I’m happy. Sure, if someone came to me and offered me a Godzilla film I’d have to give it some thought and I would definitely think about it. So we don’t aspire to that, our goal isn’t to do Star Wars or Marvel or something, we are so happy doing what we’re doing and grateful that we get to make these small films.
CK: It’s also quite dangerous sometimes, you look at say Gareth Edwards for example, it can make or break you and something you have to be emotionally and mentally prepared for. And to run before you can walk is a very difficult thing and the way we’re going it alright for us at the moment.
CS: We should be doing out next one at the end of this year, similar budget too. We’ve got many stories to tell yet!