Review: THE BLACK GLOVES (2017)
Lawrie Brewster and Sarah Daly have a reputation for mixing art films and horror films. Set in the 1940s and shot in glorious black and white, The Black Gloves is the most overt example of that mix. It’s a tribute to classic suspense and horror films such as those of Alfred Hitchcock and Jacques Tourneur. It also serves as a prequel of sorts to their film The Lord of Tears.
Dr. Finn Galloway (Jaimie Scott-Gordon, The Devil’s Machine) watches as a young patient is shot and killed by her uncle. The killing is related to fear of the Owlman. Shattered by this, he starts investigating the circumstances behind her death. He makes a connection between her death and Baldurrock House, a former orphanage now occupied by ballerina Elisa (Alexandra Nicole-Hulme, Raptor Ranch) and her teacher Lorena (Macarena Gomez, Deep Fear, Witching and Bitching) who is protective of her protégé. And jealous of anyone who might get close to her.
Elisa was traumatized by a fire in a theatre where she was performing. Dr. Galloway convinces Elisa and Lorena that he can help her. But as relationships begin to blur the lines between professional and personal, the house’s connection with the Owlman begins to manifest itself.
Looking like an avian Slenderman, Owlman is a distinctly creepy being. Maybe not as outright scary as the owl masked killer in Soavi’s Stage Fright, but still nightmare fuel. He’s a constant presence in The Black Gloves. Not always directly, sometimes a shadow on a wall, or seemingly caught in an old photo. But there, nonetheless, reminding us of the evil that looms over the characters.
Not that there isn’t plenty of drama among the film’s human characters. Love, jealousy, mind games and more than a touch of madness. The Black Gloves is gothic horror in the style of Poe’s The Fall Of The House Of Usher, troubled humans inflicting more trauma on each other as the supernatural waits for a chance to lay its claim to them.
You could remove the Owlman and have a dark romantic thriller in the style of Hitchcock’s Marnie or Vertigo. There really is a strong enough human element to carry the film. The clash of wills between Dr. Galloway and Lorena makes a solid core for the film. And we’re given plenty of reason to question Elisa’s motivations as well.
Unlike another recent British film, Here Comes Hell, The Black Gloves doesn’t use its black and white ironically. This isn’t a period piece bedecked in modern gore, it’s a tribute to those films in tone and temperament. Which is to say it’s a fairly restrained film, a slow burn that avoids onscreen violence and gore. Having grown up watching old movies on TV it was a nice touch of nostalgia.
Freestyle Digital Media will release The Black Gloves on DVD and North American VOD Platforms on May 15th.