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Encounters Scared The Hell Out Of Me

We sat the director down for a chat about found footage and how making horror films can be life threatening.

Last night we saw the premiere of the first ever Danish found footage horror film, titled Encounters. The story follows a crew of Danish filmmakers as they embark into the Swedish woods to make a low budget horror film which, believe it or not, is also titled Encounters. Clever, huh? The press release prior to the premiere claimed that all of this footage had been found after the disappearance of the film crew by an anonymous hacker group called Pandoras. Basically the same way that The Blair Witch Project was marketed leading up to it’s release. Though a few online haters arose across the Internet, the premiere was packed and the crowd quite nearly shit themselves. Whatever you have to say about these sort of low budget indie horror flicks, Encounters already says about itself. It’s a very self-aware movie splattered with meta jokes and ironic insights. We were into it, so we caught up with the director Anders Bukh to get the inside scoop of what it’s actually like to go into the woods and film a horror flick with no money and no real experience.


VICE: How and why did you get involved in this project? What is your background? 

Anders: I wanted to show a different take on Danish horror movies. I’m originally an editor, I've been editing for about 23 years now.

This is your directorial debut then? 

In feature film yes, I've only directed short stuff and music videos.

Music videos to horror flicks. Not exactly the most natural progression, is it?

I've always wanted to make a horror movie, with lots of suspense, like the old 70-80’s horror movies. I think the way they made them at that time has been forgotten.

What scared you the most as a kid?

The Thing gave me nightmares. That and Alien. Body Snatchers scared me a lot as well

Heard. There's not much of those movie in Encounters though. What inspired you?

Of course films like Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch inspired me, but I've tried to take the genre further.  More plot points, implemented music, and using more cameras at the same time.

What came first – zero budget or the idea to make a “camera footage” horror film?

They kind of came hand in hand. I always wanted to make a movie, but unfortunately my name is not Lars Von Trier or Susanne Bier. I knew it was going to be very hard for me to get funding. I had to wait for the equipment to be cheap enough so I could buy it myself. I felt like the handheld style where the actors shoot themselves was affordable and very effective in creating both a "real" and scary feel. The film is made only with money from my good friend Kasper Roth, and myself.  I had to take a mortgage on my apartment to afford it. We only got a little money from DFI after the film was completed for marketing.


I'm guessing there was a bunch of challenges in making this movie? 

Eh - there was a lot. Basically my producer Kasper Graversen and I had to do everything ourselves. But one thing in particular; you don't use music in this kind of film, so it’s hard to dramatize. We actually ended up using some of the crew’s own music to support the drama. I got sick with Lyme disease ten days before the shoot was finished and was close to death. The crew also got robbed.

How does one get Lyme disease?

At some point during shooting, we were short of a corpse lying in the forest. So tough luck, I had to play the corpse myself, which resulted in me getting covered in ticks. Soon after, I was hospitalised and at some point I was close to death. Not particularly funny.

Any other spooky coincidences?

Oh yes, when I wrote the original script, the crew hears strange sounds from the sky. Suddenly a lot of videos appeared on YouTube with people filming the sky hearing strange noises. The director in the film falls and injures his leg, I fell and injured my leg badly when test filming. When shooting at an abandoned military base near Hess Valley in Norway, weird stuff happened to our camera, microphones, a lot of interference appeared on the picture and we had strange unexplained orbs on the video footage. Some of this footage is actually used in the movie. A surveillance camera set on the base was programmed to start recording if there were any movements. It started recording every night at 1:11am showing strange lights, the same time as the crew experienced strange lights in the original script.


Well that sounds scary as hell.  Do you think you got so involved in the story that you started imagining parts of it coming true?

If you ask a crazy person if he's crazy I think he would answer no. So yeah, my answer is no.

I’ve always wondered if people get scared when making horror films?

Actually I think the opposite happened, running around alone in a dark forest, or in an abandoned military base where weird things happen really toughens you up. I think I was too busy to be scared.

That's always something. What's the overall message you want the audience to take away from this film?

Facts are sometimes stranger than fiction and sometimes it's best to listen to the fool with the craziest theories.

And what about all the internet haters?

There will always be haters no matter what film you make, but especially with a project like this. I've seen some comments a few places, I think it’s from people who think it's easy to make films and they can do better. But it only proves that they don't know what that they’re talking about, and personally I don’t really give a shit . Instead of sitting there writing angry comments, they should go out and make a movie themselves. Then we can talk. Also these people haven't even seen the movie yet, which makes it even more laughable.

Lastly, what are you going to be for Halloween?

I will be naked – we don't celebrate Halloween in Denmark

That sounds horrific indeed. Thanks for the chat, Anders. 

Encounters is running at a Cinemaxx near you from October 30th.