Random Encounter

(Douglas Jackson, Canada, 1998)


This is an Elizabeth Berkley vehicle post Showgirls (1995): she’s pretty good in it. J.H. Wyman (aka/formerly Joel Wyner, a bit of a Ben Stiller look-alike, mainly a TV writer/producer in recent years, who also wrote The Mexican [2001] and acted all through the ‘90s) plays Kyle, an absolutely creepy “romantic stranger”, conspicuously shorter than the “powerful” Allie.


Both Berkley and Wyner (him especially) act with their eye-blinks – great cascades of them to signify fear (her), intensity (him), and furious thought-processes (both of them).


This film (directed by telemovie thriller specialist Douglas Jackson), although rather fixed on morally exonerating Allie from any complicity in crime or murder, does have a slightly perverse streak. It starts with a bang, as sex with the random Kyle in a lavish mansion after the big business-firm party is interrupted by a jealous woman wanting to get a knife into him: Allie whacks her on the head with a strange art/sculpture piece (prefigured in incidental action), and this (rich) Other Woman is instantly dead. As in Double Indemnity (1944) and so many others, cover-up complicity serves to create (fleetingly) a sexual bond: later, this instant couple do get to have sex!


The plot works around to exposing its hidden machinations, centred not so much on Kyle himself (who needs to be eventually shot by a good cop) as on Allie’s seemingly benevolent, about-to-retire work-mentor (whose ominous introductory line is, “I gave 30 years of my life to this company …”).


Note on credits: writer Matt Dorff is the director of Captive (1998), and a prolific writer of 28 telemovies post the teen comedy feature Campus Man (1987).


A Blue Steel (1990) echo/quote: nightmare of the psycho-killer who shows up at your folks’ home, charming them completely and staying for tea!


There is an absolutely wonderful moment in Random Encounter, early on, during the dispensing of the body/faking of a car accident (Psycho [1960] again). Allie has not viewed the staged smash-into-pole; she drives up moments later. Suspense: her POV of the burning car: is Kyle perhaps dead, too? Then the camera clumsily shifts in anticipation screen-right, and Kyle makes his shock appearance in the frame!



Final, odd touch: under the closing credits, Allie is on a jolly fishing trip with her ageing/ailing Dad!

MORE Jackson: The Paper Boy

© Adrian Martin June 2012

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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