Blackwood (2014)

1SHT_BLKWOOD_100235_.inddFun Fact: Today I decided to change my rating system. From here on it won’t be letter grades, but will be the same star system as Netflix. It’s simple, and does the trick. Just in case you wondered.

Good day everyone! For my Canadian readers, I hope you’ve been out to VOTE already! Polling stations close at 7pm and there is no acceptable excuse for not voting, so get out there and be heard! Now, with that out of the way, it is day 19 of my #31DaysOfHorror (Holy crap that was fast…). As you guys know, I’m a big fan of a ghost story, so lets get to Blackwood.

The classic English ghost story gets a revision when a college professor finds himself plagued by spectral visions.

The first thing that comes to mind with this movie is the 2007 film, The Orphanage, and not JUST because there is a ghost child named Thomas. I won’t say that they are equal films, or that if you like one you will definitely like the other, there is just something about both films that hit my brain in similar ways. Admittedly, Blackwood isn’t nearly as beautifully shot, but I won’t hold that against it. Anyways, let’s get on with it. This movie wins a few bonus points right off the back for being British. There’s something wonderful about British ghost stories, they have this tendency to have a really effective doom and gloom over them. Really, a lot of foreign ghost stories (particularl Guillermo Del Toro) do this as well, and it just doesn’t seem to happen as often in North American horror.

Blackwood was the first feature from director Adam Wimpenny, and he does a fine job commanding pretty good performances from everyone. It’s not likely he’ll win any substantial awards for this particular effort, but he does a fine job all in all. First time feature-writer J.S. Hill wrote this one, and provided a really interesting twist on a pretty traditional story line. A family moves into a new spooky house, and has all sorts of spooky encounters, but it doesn’t go in quite the direction that you expect it to. The “twist” in the film might feel, to some, a little bit forced and unexpected but I really enjoyed the way that it decided to go. I was pretty sure that the film was going to hit all of the exact same beats as Stir of Echoes, where ghosts need help, torment a guy, guy helps, everything is fine. It starts to go that way, but turns that on it’s head in a way that might pleasantly surprise you, so I won’t get too deep into that.

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The cast is pretty solid all around, I didn’t recognize many of them until I did a little bit of research and it’s kind of a well-stacked cast. Particularly, at least for me, enjoyable was Russell Tovey (Grabbers). Tovey is a solid actor and really does a great job whenever he is one screen. Also great was Paul Kaye (It’s All Gone Pete Tong), he makes for a really great red herring and does a wonderful job here. The weakest performances, unfortunately, come from our leads. Ed Stoppard (The Pianist) and Sophia Myles (The Damned) don’t have a ton of Chemistry, and Stoppard’s character is so close to the edge for the majority of the movie that it’s hard to take him too seriously. There was a solid attempt to give his character some depth, and they were pretty interesting, but his performance doesn’t really work.

In terms of scares, and atmosphere, Blackwood is pretty effective. The nice thing about this one is that it doesn’t force the scares, sure it has jump scares, but usually they pay off from effective atmosphere and editing throughout. That said, the entire first three quarters of the movie are pretty old territory. Everything will feel pretty familiar right up until the ending, which might hurt this movie in the end. It’s been out for over a year, and I haven’t really heard much about it, though I remember trying to find it last year with no real success.

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The movies that hurt me the most are the middling ones, those movies that slide right across the plate and score a few…touch downs, or whatever (sports!). It’s hard to have a ton to say about a movie that doesn’t really get more than a “well, I didn’t hate watching that” reaction. That’s this movie, it’s fine, and you might even enjoy it, but don’t expect to be BLOWN AWAY by the slight twist on an old story.

RATING: ***

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