August 20, 2018 Black Wake (Movie Review)
H.P. Lovecraft inspired work is all over the place these days; shows, video games, and a hefty amount of Sci-Fi films over the past decade or so has left us with a bit of eldritch fatigue. None of the famed author’s work has translated well directly to film, but there has been some success with using some of his core elements and building an original story around them.
That is what is attempted with Black Wake, the latest offering from Director Jeremiah Kipp (Pickup 2017, Painkiller 2014), which follows a government scientist trying to unravel the mystery of a series of strange, unexplained deaths on the U.S. Eastern seaboard. Released on DVD and VOD as of August 7, 2018, via of Vision Films, unfortunately, Black Wake never really finds its bearings as a story and has a little too much schlock to deliver the scares it wants to.
The story tries to balance too much from the beginning. An unknown parasitic, aquatic organism is responsible for an outbreak of a zombie-like infection on the East coast. Dr. Luiza Moreira (Nana Gouvea: Blood Circus 2017) is the protagonist and a government scientist who is investigating the dead bodies of victims and infected alike. She is being followed by her own government agents because she is apparently living a new life with no memory of her past.
On top of that, there is a deranged homeless man (Jonny Beauchamp: Penny Dreadful series, Nerve 2016) who is a sort of harbinger for the infection and a smart detective (Tom Sizemore: Saving Private Ryan 1998, Black Hawk Down 2001) who knows something unknown is amiss.
Got all that? Because it is a lot to follow in the first arc of the story, and the Found Footage aspect adds to the confusion. There are various Found Footage scenes from isolated incidents throughout, and while they feature some decent action, they could have been shot traditionally to greater effect. The main reason why the story itself does not connect, however, is because of the many plot holes. The infection is far too wide-spread to be contained or even slowed down, so it never feels right that a small government facility is the base of operations, as it were. That also begs the question of how is this not a nationwide epidemic with multiple cases of the same phenomenon across many states.
The symptoms of the infection seem to vary – sometimes infected people spread the virus to others, and sometimes they kill. The infection is shown to be both immediately active and dormant for reasons unknown. All this clouding of what happens makes it impossible for the containment of the infection to make sense.
Gouvea is a Brazilian model with some acting experience, but she struggles here with her English. She just does not have the command of the language yet to be convincing in the role. Jonny Beauchamp gives the film’s best performance as the homeless and unhinged Tommy. His is the only other role besides Gouvea’s that requires some panache and he does well. Sizemore has always been a natural at playing hard-nosed authority types and here is no different. The dialogue overall is fine but there are some glaring instances of cringy word choices, and some of the supporting performances are dull.
While the movie is a slow burn type of story, it is just too bloated to reconcile all of its elements organically, and it inexplicably lets the viewers in on the ending ‘twist’ long before it happens. The best thing about Black Wake are the effects. The parasites and other other-worldly organisms look believable most of the time, and the practical makeup effects are good. The film could have used more of this in certain scenes to really play to its limited strengths. Aside from that, the ending of the film does work well enough for what it’s supposed to be, but its impact is severely diminished by the journey to get there.
Overall, Black Wake suffers from a confusing script and poor editing and never gets off the ground. It borrows a lot from other Sci-Fi and Horror movies, feeling derivative in many ways. The Lovecraftian influence feels like a gimmick that the story started with and worked backwards from. Unfortunately, Black Wake misses the mark. That is why CrypticRock gives this movie 2 out of 5 stars.