Black Site Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by DREAD / Epic Pictures
Written and directed by Tom Paton
2018, 87 minutes, Not Rated
Released on April 9th, 2019
Samantha Schnitzler as Ren Reid
Bentley Kalu as Jay Austin
Angela Dixon as Jennifer Wilkinson
Kris Johnson as Erebus
Mike Beckingham as Sam
Is there anything more truly horrific than the cosmos, anything more pregnant with possibilities both beautiful and awful? There are so many ways to go with it, but the top of the tentacular mountain is dominated by the Elder Gods from a time before mankind was even a thought. H.P. Lovecraft popularized the idea, and we’ve been fascinated by cosmic horror ever since. Combining that with the ever-captivating Area 51-esque locale is writer/director Tom Paton’s Black Site.
Ren Reid (Samantha Schnitzler; Justice League) suffered a horrific tragedy as a child. Her parents were both field agents for Black Site, a secret base where ancient beings (found recovering in human form) are captured and deported back into the far reaches of space. They were driven mad and killed by Erebus (a vicious Elder God) in front of her eyes. Now she works at Black Site herself, looking to follow in her parents’ footsteps. She’s haunted by her past and isn’t living up to the legacy…that is, until Erebus (Kris Johnson; Who Needs Enemies?) is brought on for deportation. When his cult followers show up, looking to spring him and bring about the end of humanity, Ren steps in to fulfill her destiny. Can she survive what Erebus has in store for her?
Black Site is, first and foremost, much more of a film about a woman facing her demons in a siege situation. It’s also heavier on the action than I expected (Schnitzler is a martial artist and fight performer). What looks like mostly horror in the trailer comes across as more of a fighting film with some personal drama and supernatural elements. In this regard it does a solid job, even if it doesn’t knock your socks off.
However, the horror leaves plenty to be desired. The same two or three images flash through her mind over and over again as her eyes go opaque white and she relives the past. She has a telepathic link with Erebus, and their destinies are intertwined. While it is a serviceable narrative device, the same old schtick gets old quickly. If you’re looking any practical creature FX or monsters, you’ll not find them here.
The interpersonal relationships are believable and the performances carry the story, but it’s just not what you showed up to this party for. Cosmic horror is supposed to be, well, horrific. Black Site dresses up as cosmic horror when, in actuality, it’s a slightly above-average action film with a darkish tone; kind of an Assault on Precinct 13 remake without the steroids, budget, or nastiness on display.
The opening credits and parts of the musical score do sport a very clear Stranger Things vibe. It’s a smart nostalgia for the sake of it trick, and I can’t say it doesn’t have a positive effect. Also, there’s a smashing little orientation video for the new members of the Black Site crew that is straight out of LOST, right down the grainy ‘80s video and bad splices. As a nice added bonus, they nailed the poster art – it’s a beauty!
Clearly, Tom Paton (Redwood) has the right idea of what people want to see and a love of the genre. Black Site is something of a misfire, but it could be so much worse. I have a strong hunch his is a name that will pop up again down the road in a much bigger way. You can’t say he didn’t commit to it and swing for the fences, bringing an aesthetic and flavor of fun and action.
The scope of cosmic horror is, after all, a tricky bitch to get right.
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