Writer/director Oliver Rogers has created something of an oddity with his first feature film, The Black Spot. It’s an extremely low budget, £2,000 or about $2,750 USD, science fiction film. It’s also shot in film noir styled black and white. There are plenty of reviews on here that can attest to the difficulty of making low, never mind microbudget science fiction work. For every Lapsis and Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes there are a dozen films like Agent Revelation and Alpha Code. Crossing it with noir without a Blade Runner level budget seems like asking for trouble. Do Rogers’ talents match up to his ambitions?
The Black Spot is set in what seems to be the present judging by vehicles, clothes and reference to Nicole Kidman, but one where there is an International Off-World Trade Federation. We almost immediately meet an agent who has amnesia and only remembers fragments of a childhood incident involving aliens. Aliens seem to play a large part in the world of The Black Spot, which makes sense since we’re a result of their experiments. And that’s just the start of the rabbit hole we’re very quickly thrown into.
The Black Spot is a beautifully shot film, Rogers and cinematographer Henry Meredith achieve a look that’s somewhere between actual film noir, early espionage films and vintage science fiction. They also do a good job of making whatever building they used as a location pass as a front for some super secret facility.
The problems with The Black Spot lie in the script. I know film noir, if done right, means plenty of mysterious goings on and plot twists. Rogers’ script is a bit too mysterious however. I had trouble figuring out character names let alone motivations at several points throughout the film. By the time Soldier 023 (Charlie Jack) and Agent Wolfgang (Amour Owolabi, Hunting 4 Hubbies) go on the run I was thoroughly confused. And it’s well after that we learn the young girl we see levitating a bottle is Jasmine (Ellie Jeffery) and what she has to do with things.
The Black Spot is based on the director’s short film Full Disclosure which I haven’t seen. Maybe if I had I would have caught on quicker, but you can’t count on an audience being familiar with your past work. If at least some of the information had been delivered a bit sooner and in a less rushed manner the film would have been a lot better off and I wouldn’t have spent so much time feeling lost. Or trying to play catch up when I did learn something.
For their part the cast of The Black Spot do well despite their lack of experience. The only two cast members, ironically, just contribute vocal performances. Troma’s head honcho Lloyd Kaufman (I Scream on the Beach!, Survival of the Film Freaks) gives his usually goofy spiel as High Commander Kaufman and Len Kabasinski (Blood Mercury, Swamp Zombies 1& 2) provides the voice of a helicopter pilot.
When all is said and done, Rogers shows an impressive grasp of the technical aspects of filmmaking, especially for somebody who made their first feature before their twenty-first birthday. The Black Spot also shows he can get a lot of production value out of a low budget He just needs to work on his writing skills, because it’s the problems with the story that hold the film back.
The Black Spot has been picked up for distribution by Troma, and is available on their Troma Now! Streaming service. You can check the film’s Facebook page or Rogers’ website for more details.