Inspired by the cosmic horror of genre writer HP Lovecraft, BLACK WAKE takes the concept of found footage and applies it to a feverish apocalyptic narrative. Something about Lovecraft’s writing, where the mind-wrenching creatures are both inside and outside of us, threatening to destroy our sanity before ripping our world apart, seemed appropriate to the “we mustdocument everything” requirements of found footage.
When I see the word Lovecraftian in a film description, my pupils dilate, my heart rate increases, and blood rushes to organs not traditionally used for movie viewing. My excitement is oftentimes not warranted as these films are usually a bit of a letdown — either very under budget, overacted, or just poorly executed. Still, the continual disappointments in no way lessen my love for the genre or the possibility that a real gem of a film is just around the corner. Is Black Wake that gem we are all waiting for? Yes! No? The answer is is honestly not so black and white.
Directed by veteran film-maker Jeremiah Kipp and produced by Carlos Keyes, Black Wake stars the talents of the renowned Eric Roberts as Doctor Frank, memorable tough-guy Tom Sizemore as detective Michaels, and the lovely, captivating Nana Gouvea as Dr. Luiza Moreira. Other notable talents include writer Jerry Janda and cinematographer Kenneth Kotowski.
Black Wake starts trepidatiously, jumping headfirst into a pseudo-documentary style story rather than having a plot unfold around a defined set of characters. The story then twists and turns, evolving continuously — you think you've discovered the main character and then they're eaten, beaten, or exploded. The film is bold, brazen, and makes every effort to push the envelope when it comes to nontraditional and non-linear storytelling — there is an obvious backstory, but the film breaks all the regular rules when it comes to sequence of acts, character development, and progression. The plot is more of a downward spiral than a typical story, with multiple characters taking center-stage for their designated roles. Whilst tradition-breaking, Black Wake does an applaudable effort at staying true to its Lovecraftian claim, with much of the plot very reminiscent of favourites like The Call of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in the Darkness, especially the whole detective unraveling the mystery subplot.
Our only real consistent main character is Dr. Luiza Moreira (Nana Gouvea), who narrates a good deal of our documentary. Her character embodies the mood of the film, which decays beautifully with each passing minute and scene. I personally loved the accent, her acting and the way she makes the story revolve around her. The makeup team has some serious skills, especially when watching Moreira's physical degradation as she declines into madness (or perhaps true sanity?)
The film is shot through a multitude of different cameras; security cams, Google glasses, hand-held video cameras, webcams, etc. etc. This was obviously a decision made considering both style and budget though probably leaning towards the latter. The general feel of the film is similar to the 2017 sci-fi, The Beyond, which was also shot as a documentary/movie blend. It's not so much that I dislike the style as that it's a confusing choice for me. I enjoy horror films, and I enjoy documentaries. I also enjoy curries and rum-raisin ice-cream. I would not, however, consider blending those into a single dish. That said, I once wrote a short story about the rise of the anti-Christ as a collection of newspaper articles — so colour me a hypocrite.
On the upside, the script and story are great. The film doesn't skip a beat pace wise and we are constantly entertained. Not everything makes sense, but keeping true to Lovecraftian storytelling, it's not all meant to. There are greater powers at work that our tiny brains are unfortunately not privy to. There's a great reveal at the end and a handful of gotcha that deserves a slow clap. The longer I watched, the more I adjusted to the directorial style and the more I enjoyed the tangents — it really came together for the better.
The film is a clear labour of love, with everyone involved understanding Kipp's vision and putting their best foot forward. While at times rough around the edges, it all blends together seamlessly, creating an entertaining cinematic experience that lovers of the genre will not soon forget. It is a different kettle of fish (or fish-possessed people), but I think that is probably what makes it memorable.
The film will be release DVD and VOD on August 7th.
The pre-order link for Amazon is just below:
Scroll down for the trailer and as always, stay sordid.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.