BlackwoodLondon Film Festival 2013
Thursday 17th October, 9pm – Screen on the Green
Saturday 19th October, 9pm – Vue West End, Screen 5
Unhinged professor and TV historian Ben Marshall relocates to the West Country in a bid to rebuild his fragile family life. Unfortunately their new home – Blackwood House – turns out to be far from idyllic. Haunted by visions at night, Ben is drawn into the house’s bloody past, testing his sanity and putting his family in ever-increasing danger.
There is more than the occasional nod to The Shining here – but despite acknowledging this influence, director Adam Wimpenny claimed in a recent interview that he is “more interested in the suspense aspects, so it’s more about the tension and the mood [than] the gore”.
With such stated aims, Blackwood is an undeniable success: an impeccably-realised horror with just enough suspense to keep things ticking over. A Classic with a big “C”, so classic, in fact, it risks being a horror by numbers. Things go bump in the night, shadows loiter just out of wide-shot focus, power cuts happen at inopportune moments, dark figures lurk in paintings, scarred groundskeepers play with your children, and the children are always – always – terrifying (particularly when they wear owl masks – not since Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast have owls seemed quite as creepy).
Lorne Balfe’s soundtrack is classic too, letting you know when a fright or a red-herring is creeping up on you. Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1 is wonderfully portentous when Rachel, Ben’s wife, plays it on the piano as her son Harry dons his own owl mask.
The performances are universally strong – although it would have been welcome to see more flesh on the bones of Paul Kaye’s priest and Russell Tovey’s underused Jack Otterly.
All this makes for a very neat production, but Blackwood could do with some creative ruggedness at times to cut through audience expectations. Invariably one knows what’s going to happen in this movie before it does. The house even has a barometer seemingly sensitive to peril rather than atmospheric pressure, flitting as it does from “fair” to “stormy” with all the delicacy of a belligerent buffalo (can anyone say pathetic fallacy?).
Director Wimpenny demonstrates a firm hand on the horror genre throughout, and enough flair to hint at real future promise. As one of Screen Daily’s 2011 Stars of Tomorrow, and with award-winning shorts Angel Cake, ROAR and First Time behind him, Wimpenny’s Blackwood feels like a watershed movie – a fine, if predictable, horror from a name to follow.
Blackwood is released in the UK on 17th October 2013.
Watch director Adam Wimpenny discuss Blackwood here: