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UFO Files: Alien Encounters
Interest in the nuts-and-bolts of the paranormal started strong when I was a lad. Over the years those interests have not as much flagged as they've drifted lazily over into me lolling on the couch watching a sci-fi or horror movie. Yet I'm often compelled into watching something like Alien Encounters, a 45-minute episode of UFO Files from the History Channel. The days when I was bowled over by Project Blue Book on TV (and when is that one coming to DVD, pray tell?) are long gone, but even though I'm not at all knowledgeable about the subject of UFOs any more, programs like Alien Encounters remind me that I want to believe.
Whether that desire merits a 25-dollar DVD with one 45-minute episode of a Television show - minus any extras - will depend on your level of mania and access to cable, nonetheless, Alien Encounters is compelling, titillating stuff. Molded in a sensationalist TV-documentary-style unchanged since Unsolved Mysteries bowed in '87, Encounters features requisite interviews from witnesses and experts, thrilling and cheap little re-enactments and graphics and stills aplenty. And tonight we're in service of Trace Evidence. Eyewitness tales and sketches (maybe the odd photograph of lights in the sky) can only sustain for so long, however, while this handful of stories all contain physical evidence that seemingly can't be explained.
Among other mysterious encounters are a pin-wheeling ball of light on a lonely road and other psychedelic apparitions - hovering unknown colors and mega-sized Jiffy-Pop things - that can't be fobbed off on drunkenness; moving from putative apocrypha into the real world by dint of leaving stuff behind. Organic elements and unidentifiable metals slough off when the pinwheel hits a traveling car at high speed, while in the case of the Delphos Ring (love that name) plants will not grow and soil resists water there decades after a fantastic object hovered close to the ground one afternoon. A few UFOlogists specializing in cases involving trace evidence as well police, chemical analysts and others independently verify and try to explain these varying evidential stragglers. Everyone appears quite credible, bolstering these cases, but if you don't have a subliminal yen for the unexplained, (and its contradictory propensity for adding some stability to our confusing lives) you might be looking for a few more experts than on display. Though skeptics also have their say, let's show two labs analyzing that weird soil, for instance, and add experts who haven't spent their lives researching UFOs to look at evidence from a different perspective.
Whatever the case, these are perplexing and interesting cases, presented with a mix of breathless reenactments and sober evidentiary testimony, that can't help but excite the armchair UFOlogist. Even corny TV-budget CGI adds to the effect, at times evocative enough for the imagination, and at others charmingly wonky, but always entertaining. Those deeper into the subject might find this old-hat, but casual observers can find some thrills, even within a too-short program.
Presented in a letterboxed 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio, (1.85:1?) Alien Encounters looks as fresh as on its airdate (presuming you watched on digital cable or satellite). Images are decently crisp, clean and sharp, while colors appear natural. Compression artifacts log a no-show, except for some minor aliasing when shots pan across sun-dappled, leafy trees. The material suffers a bit from a harsh shot-on-video for TV look, which is what you'd expect.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio is perfectly adequate, with strong dialog tracks and hearty dramatic music featuring moody bass and cello tones as well as your requisite screechy strings. Nice atmosphere is created on the cheap, and you can hear everything clearly, to boot.
Chapter Selections and Closed Captioning are the only bits of Trace Evidence indicating the presence of extras.
With all the serio-wonkiness I crave, plus some darn compelling evidence, Alien Encounters has satisfied my UFO jones for a little while. Will it quench your thirst for the truth? Depends on how often you drink from the well. I'll wager inveterate investigators of the unknown will enjoy but crave depth, while less intense viewers might hope for a few more stories. As simply a 45-minute TV show on DVD, this might be fun as part of an evening of 'watching the skies' entertainment, but at that, I'd just Rent It.