Who Is a Family Annihilator? Is Malik Khan a Family Annihilator in Encounter?

At its core, the thriller drama filmEncounter‘ is about a father’s relationship with his two children. Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) is a decorated Marine who did ten tours and received a Bronze Star, but after assaulting a superior officer, he was dishonorably discharged and spent two years in prison. When he gets out, Malik discovers that his former wife, Piya (Janina Gavankar), is in a new relationship with a man named Dylan. Piya and their sons — Jay and Bobby — now live at Dylan’s farm in Oregon.

Malik’s harrowing experience from his war days manifests as a mental condition as he starts to believe that most of the human population is under the control of non-terrestrial microorganisms. One night, he shows up at his former wife’s home, gags and restrains her and Dylan, and takes Jay and Bobby on a supposed road trip. When the authorities get involved in the search, they begin to consider Malik as a potential “Family Annihilator.” If you are wondering about the term’s meaning and whether it really applies to Malik, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Who Is a Family Annihilator?

Family annihilator is a real-world term. It refers to criminals who commit familicide or kill multiple members of their families. Their victims are often their own children, parents, spouses, and immediate relatives. A considerable amount of time, these rampages end with suicide.

Some of the most infamous alleged family annihilators of recent years are Canadian pro-wrestler Chris Benoit, British businessman Christopher Foster, American bank employee Steven Sueppel, Major League Baseball player Marty Bergen, American Navy veteran Robert William Fisher, and American accountant John List. Among these aforementioned individuals, everyone except Fisher (a wanted fugitive) and List was a case of murder-suicide.

Is Malik a Family Annihilator?

FBI Agent Shepard West (Rory Cochrane), who is in charge of the nationwide search for Malik and the boys, is the first person who refers to Malik as a potential family annihilator during his conversation with Hattie (Octavia Spencer), Malik’s parole officer. When Hattie expresses her skepticism, Shepard points out that Malik checks all the boxes that traditionally define a family annihilator. He is separated from his wife, isolated from his children, and was thrown out of the military for assaulting a superior officer. He doesn’t have health benefits or any prospects in life. Moreover, he spent two years in jail.

Shepard compares Malik to a ticking time bomb, a dangerous combination of resentment, rage, and PTSD. Hattie vehemently refutes this, and after speaking to a former member of his Marine unit, she realizes that Malik might have an undiagnosed psychotic disorder. Eventually, Malik proves Hattie right. He is not a family annihilator. In fact, Malik Khan breaks through the shells of his delusions when his children are placed in danger because of him.

Does Malik Khan Kill His Sons?

No, Malik Khan doesn’t kill his sons. He realizes that his sons are in mortal danger as long as they are with him. He then contacts Piya, tells her where their sons are, and tries to leave them at a diner. While Bobby stays behind, Jay doesn’t. He is more mature than his age would suggest and recognizes what his father is planning to do by leaving them there.

Jay sneaks into Malik’s car and doesn’t let him know he is there until Malik realizes he isn’t alone. Malik has resolved that he will not go back to prison again, so he is exasperated seeing his son there. But it’s Jay’s presence that prevents him from doing something foolish. Conversely, Jay being there stops the authorities from shooting at Malik. The entire incident ends without bloodshed and with Malik and Jay wrapped in an embrace.

Read More: Where Was Encounter Filmed?