The old adage or central truth when it comes to writing is to “write what you know,” and Australian writer/director Andrew Montague seems to have taken this advice literally when penning the story for Blackwood. This masterfully crafted short film follows Nikki (Danielle Butlin), a sound recordist who picks up a strange sound while filming on location in a forest. Her curious nature leads her deeper into the woods and away from her companions—and towards the source of the sound.
Creating a short horror film about a film crew shooting a short horror film is both meta and somewhat cheeky. A short film is a difficult thing to master, though it is also many aspiring filmmakers first few attempts at filmmaking. It requires vision, foresight, and talent. Creating a feel, building a plot, giving life to the characters; all of these difficult feats to master even in a feature film.
I was really surprised then to find that Blackwood does all of the above almost effortlessly. Firstly, the set is absolutely beautiful, almost primal in its feel. It added to the sense of mystery and suspense that the film seemingly pulls out of a single sound. Also, Danielle Butlin does a fantastic job in the lead—acting very believably with great expression and little dialog. The viewer is able to almost read her mind thanks to her body language, facial expressions, and curious anxiety. When discussing his choice of setting, Montague had the following to say:
After visiting the California Redwoods, I fell in love with the texture and scale of the forest, which is unlike the Australian bush. Luckily there is one forest like that here in Australia and we used it as our location.
Honestly, there is nothing that I really can fault within the film. I enjoyed every second of it and all of the technical aspects were done professionally and done well. Very well. It’s crisp, clear, creepy and sinister. How so? Montague did something very clever: He tapped into one of man’s primal, hardwired fears and, by doing so, really made a near-perfect short film.
What are we truly afraid of? Existential fears aside, it was the survival fears of our ancestors that remain hardwired within us today. Fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of things we can’t see in the water…it was our sensory fears that kept us safe from predators. This film is playing on those primal fears, particularly the fear of savage-sounding creature noises within that primal forest setting. My inner homo habilis was on edge the whole film, shrieking at Nikki to back away from whatever was making that sound as it sure as hell sounded big enough to ear her.
Sound intriguing? Interest piqued? This is absolutely one of the better short films you are going to see this year—it’s definitely one of the best I’ve had the privilege of seeing. Check it out. I’ll post the link and poster below. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid.
With Blackwood, I wanted to make a short film that aims to subvert the genre while bringing a fresh take on the misadventure trope in horror. I chose the sound recordist as a character to portray as their job is very solitary almost, walled off from the rest of the production, a great character to follow and put in a solitary situation. I love sound design and wanted to explore soundscape as a way to drive tension. We designed a specific sound, both ominous and peculiar that leads you through the film and to its terrifying source.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.