A Dull Encounter!
Rod Serling narrates three supposedly true tales of the mysterious, weird, and horrifying. The first one involves a prank gone wrong between four young adult men. Three of them set up their buddy with a “date” involving a hot girl. All he has to do is drive to her house, ring the doorbell, and he’s set to go. They really send him to a random address, where the old lady who lives there happens to have a pistol and is suspicious. Needless to say, the man is accidentally shot dead and his female relative curses the men responsible by the grave after the funeral. She turns her occult powers on them, and they all die the way she predicted! The second story involves a hole in the ground that a farmer’s boy finds. The child thinks the family dog is at the bottom of the hole and wants to go down there, but he’s scared. It does emit a strange fog and he hears funny noises coming from it. The dad collects a number of neighbors and has them lower him into the pit where, seconds later, he screams for help. When they pull him out, he comes back as a lunatic. Whatever was down there drove him mad! The third account is basically a “Vanishing Hitchhiker” tale, where a couple find a young woman alone by the side of the road and offer her a ride. She thanks them and directs them towards her home. When they arrive, the man knocks on the front door and finds out that the man who answers is the father of the lady they picked up. But…his daughter has been dead for years, and the hitchhiker has disappeared from the car!
Encounter with the Unknown plays out like an after-school special kind of film. It feels like it was made for kids, or young teenagers, because the stories are so simple and have been told a million times before. There is no blood and nothing overtly scary happens, except for the unsettling screams of the father during the hole in the ground story. Mostly this all feels tired, like someone had some money to make a movie, decided to make a “scary” one because they could see a good return, and cobbled together old folk tales and dressed them up. All of the stories go on for far too long and really, nothing unexpected happens. The best part of the movie is Rod Serling’s narration, but it feels like it was taken from some other project and glued onto this one. There are long passages of another, different narrator, who tries to tie it all together. This creates a truly disjointed feel. Also, there is a ten-minute “summary” segment at the end put in to purely to pad the running time. It’s basically a “greatest hits” loop of images from each story. Lame.
Can’t really recommend this one, unless you have a very specific fetish for early 70s weird cinema. If so, you’ll probably be on board with this one. It plays like a pseudo-documentary and would not surprise me at all if it was specifically Made-For-TV. This is the kind of movie that if I’d caught it late at night as a kid, probably would have scared the boogers out of my nose. But now, all these years later, it didn’t age well.