Having previously reviewed Jeremiah Kipp’s short SLAPFACE I was eager to see his feature film BLACK WAKE. He had told me it was very different from the short, but I still wasn’t prepared for just how different. Rather than a straightforward narrative, BLACK WAKE is a Lovecraftian mockumentary/found footage film. One that intentionally leaves a lot of dots for the viewer to connect.
Scientists at an above top secret facility are studying a rash of disappearances along the Atlantic coast. After a bizarre murder/suicide Detective Michaels (Tom Sizemore HEAT, THE LITCH) sends a strange notebook to Dr. Moreira (Nana Gouvea). It appears an ancient parasite may lie at the root of the disappearances, but can she convince Dr. Frank (Eric Roberts RUNAWAY TRAIN, SOMETHING) in time to stop it spreading?
Starting with a burst of disorienting footage BLACK WAKE tells its story through a mix of found footage from various surveillance cameras, home videos etc and Dr. Moreira talking into a camera documenting her findings. The structure works well as it lets all the different events be pieced together and the size of the problem fully realized. This is a great workaround for one of the main problems with found footage films, the small-scale, limited settings.
The story takes some twists bouncing from parasites to tentacled sea creatures to zombies, but it does follow a logical path anyone paying attention can follow. Where it does start to go off the rails somewhat is in the final act as Dr. Moreira starts to lose her sanity. While it’s a nice riff on the “unreliable narrator” concept it also leaves the film without its center, which makes the final events even more disorienting and effective.
The creature itself is briefly glimpsed until the final moments, and it’s usually quite effective as is the zombie makeup. There are the usual problems with CGI blood and some exploding heads though. BLACK WAKE isn’t an overly bloody film so this isn’t too big of a problem though. Kipp manages to get great mileage out of makeup and minimal gore. The fact he has an excellent supporting cast that includes Vincent Pastore (THE SOPRANOS, CLINTON ROAD) and Chuck Zito (OZ, THE ANTIDOTE) goes a long way to help as well.
A strange and engrossing film that constantly defies expectations BLACK WAKE is worth seeking out. It’s currently available on VOD and DVD from Vision Films.