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Monday, February 12, 2018

my thoughts on.... 'Black Creek'

As with all of my reviews of films for The Creepercast, I fully recommend that you check each and every one of them out. I am one man and this is my opinion. I've seen plenty of movies that received reviews that were the complete opposite of how I saw the film. These writers, directors, producers and actors all put a lot of time and love into these projects. They deserve to be seen and appreciated for what they are. Everyone has a dream and I fully support the people that take the time to make theirs a reality. With that being said....

What is it about independent films that pairs so well with horror? While there are films being made all the time, with other themes, for some reason horror seems to be the staple. Perhaps it has something to do with the fans of the genre wanting to one up the last film they saw, because they think that can do better? Is it just a part of the horror lovers genetics? The desire to bring their fears to life? No matter what the reason, there is never a shortage of films coming out that continue to fuel our nightmares, more than horror. In this writers opinion, that's a good thing. That brings us to the most recent independent horror film I've had the pleasure to see, James Crow's 'Black Creek'. Starring the YouTube celebrity Chris O'Flying, this film plays on your fears of being in the woods and being hunted by an unstoppable supernatural force that will continually keep coming for you, until you're dead. We've seen these themes before in other films, but this puts them together in a way that feels fresh. Think 'Poltergeist' meets 'It Follows', but with young adults in the lead roles. Does everything that's being done here work? No. But when you consider some of what's out there that is passing for modern day horror, you can forgive any shortcomings, in favor of a well done story. I'm a jaded horror guy. At this point in my life, I've seen a little bit of everything and despite my enjoyment of remakes, it's still nice to see something I haven't really seen before. 'Black Creek' if nothing else, it's original.

This film tells the story of Mike (played by Chris O'Flying), a young man who's lost his father and is set to take his ashes out into the woods he loved. He brings several of his friends and his sister, as they head out to the cabin his father used to stay in. We learn early on of the legend of the Wisconsin Skin Walker. A native American demon, of sorts, that inhabits the body of the last person to die. Created when the white man came and took their land. After murdering 200 innocent people and burying them in a mass grave, a shaman put a curse that brought the demon to life. Since then, it's been killing on and off throughout history. Now, it's been many years since it was imprisoned in a grave, where they buried it while it was still in possession of its last host body. Now that it's back, it wants to continue where it left off. While Mike is on the way to the cabin with his friend, we find out that his father was tied to the demon. After arriving, everyone begins dying off one by one. I don't want to provide much more detail in that, as not to spoil anything. It's better for you just to see it for yourself.

Written and directed by James Crow, this is not his first foray into cinema. He's been making films in one form or another since 2010. The pacing and storytelling are a testimony to that. Despite, what I imagine to be, a small budget. He accomplishes a lot with what he has, using cut away shots and minimizing a lot of the action. The biggest issue I really had with the film, was the adult actors involved. A lot of them seemed to be new to being an actor or were just not really actors at all. Many of their scenes felt very stifled and stiff. It tended to bring a stop to a lot of the momentum the James was building towards his ultimate climax. Now, on the flip side of that same coin, Mike and his friends were (for the most part) way better that you might expect. None of it was going to win any Oscars, but that's not what this movie was being made for. It was being made to tell a great story and do it in the best way they could. That seemed to be the one thing that was always shining through, despite some overall issues. One example of this would be one of the bigger effects in the film, involving a scalping. Sadly, it looked very amateurish and took me out of a very intense scene, but all of that can be forgiven based on the end product. There were also some pretty large, open ended questions left unanswered. As an audience member, I don't need to be spoon fed every little detail, but with some the things that occurred throughout the film, there needed to be a bit more exposition. There is also the matter of the score. Not everyone realizes just how intregal to a film, the music can be. Just look at John Carpenter's 'Halloween'. The original film, with no score, everyone told him that the movie wasn't scary. It wasn't until he added his own music to it, that it became the watermark that it is today. This film's soundtrack almost ended up being distracting. It was somewhere between a video game score and an old TV movie. Perhaps I'm picking on this film too much, but there was more than enough outside of this, to keep my interest.

What 'Black Creek' really has going for it more than anything else, is the main protagonist, the Wisconsin Skin Walker. Here you have a creature that will perpetually keep killing, unchecked, and it could be years before anyone found out. The only reason our group of kids were able to attempt to stop it, was because of those who came before them. The simple idea of something that will inhabit the body of the last person it kills, is terrifying. How can you stop something that just continually hops from one body to the next? At some point, you'll lose track of whose body it's in or you'll be it's next victim. I don't know why that concept fascinates me so, but it was handled well in this film and was frightening to think about. All in all, this is above average in the world of lower budget horror. It's also proof that you can still make something your own and don't have to rely on using someone else's idea. This is a solid 3 out of 5 star film that is telling the audience that James Crow still has a lot more to come. Maybe with a bigger budget, more time and a few more experienced actors, he'll be able to take what he already does and show that he's a force to be reckoned with.

BLACK CREEK arrives on VOD February 16th from Freestyle Digital Media.

If you like this, check out: 'It Follows', 'Poltergeist' and 'The Evil Dead' (1981)