DVD Movie Review: Black Wake

By Wes Maulsby 19.08.2018

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Black Wake (UK Rating: Unrated)

Black Wake, released on VOD and DVD on 7th August, is the latest thriller from director, Jeremiah Kipp. Inspired by Lovecraftian fiction, this film unfolds around a mysterious presence terrorising a coastal community. What begins with some missing people evolves into a horrific murder case with even the dead returning to life. As is the case with other work inspired by Lovecraft, there are plenty of twists and turns as the mental state of the characters deteriorates the closer they get to the eldritch truth. Many several of these twists and turns deliver and strengthen the intensity of the narrative; unfortunately, those strengths are undercut by an inconsistent filming style, and by some questionable acting.

The most important factor contributing the identity of this film is its inspiration. Lovecraftian horror has become its own niche subgenre, and it is becoming an increasingly popular one. As a result, any entry into this subgenre has to be able to separate itself from its competition. Black Wake's strongest case for separating itself from the competition is through its interpretation of the Lovecraftian narrator. Often unreliable, the narrator serves as the audience's shepherd through these strange and almost alien locations. Along the way, they begin to lose their minds as the truth behind the bizarre circumstances within the story push the boundaries of what the mind is able to comprehend. This film does an effective job of conveying this element of Lovecraftian horror with a narrator whose mental state is continually unravelling throughout the film.


 
Along the way, she also makes the transformation into the unreliable narrator as numerous stories she tells and claims that she makes throughout the film turn out to be significantly wrong. The revelation of these truths are where the film is at its strongest, as it is where it is able to fully realise its goal and define its identity. These reveals are also fairly clever, with their setups being performed well enough that the pay-off can feel satisfying, and not confusing or odd.

Unfortunately, other aspects of the film aren't so effective. One of the most interesting aspects revolves around its decision to present itself as a sort of "found-footage" event, with nearly the entire film being framed as archived footage pulled from security cameras and the mobile phones of the various victims. While fine in concept, the execution is far from consistent. From the uniform look - which betrays the idea that this footage is pulled from many different sources - to the frustrating lack of cohesion in this filming technique, this decision most often detracts from the movie rather than adding to it. If this is supposed to be found footage, how is there going to be traditional shot-reverse-shot in any scene involving two characters. Additionally, many of the angles that the footage is pulled from is baffling, as there is no way there could be a camera in that location, which wasn't placed there by a director of a film: no one puts a security camera on a bench in a locker room. The execution of this filming technique leaves the audience asking far too many questions for it to actually be effective.

The other major detraction point is due to the acting; it is wildly inconsistent. Some actors are putting in quality performances, and some are clearly not up to snuff, while others are clearly phoning in their roles and even appear to be reading their lines from off-screen. This is most critical from the lead character. She is not a native English speaker, and when combined with some questionable acting chops, it makes many of her scenes difficult to get through. Their pacing is all over the place, and her delivery of critical information leaves the impact of many of her scenes flat and sometimes even confusing.

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Black Wake is a film with an interesting concept and delivery method that is hampered by poor execution ay many levels. The elements that this gets right are satisfying and even thrilling at times. There are simply too many elements that it gets wrong in order for it to be a movie that can be heavily recommended. However, there are enough check marks in the correct places for Lovecraftian and cosmic horror buffs to be able to find some enjoyment here.

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