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Black Noise (2023) Review

Black Noise is the latest film to follow in the footsteps of Predator and take a group of highly trained professional soldiers and send them to a remote location on what should be a simple mission only for it to turn into a battle with something beyond their comprehension. Earlier this year Island Escape added a few twists to make it feel fresh, can Black Noise pull off the same feat?

A large man, uniformed and armed, flees through a Carribean rainforest. Whatever he’s running from must be dangerous, his uniform is torn and he’s battered, bloody, and panicked to the point of shooting at moving foliage. Reaching a house he sees a quad parked in the yard, just what he needs to escape. But as he does a red light shines on him and he explodes in a puff of black CGI smoke.

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On Saint Martin, Ryan (Wayne Gordon, Fear the Invisible Man, 400 Bullets) and his team, Leila (Sadie Newman, Zaya, Holmes, and Watson). Sarah (Eve Mauro, Crepitus, Agent Revelation) and Leo (Jackson Rathbone, WarHunt, Condor’s Nest) are enjoying some downtime after a particularly nasty mission in Venezuela. The team’s other member. Jordan (Alex Pettyfer, The Infernal Machine, The Strange Ones), is on his way back after dealing with the death of his wife.

That’s about to change because on Esperanza, a hidden retreat for the ultra-wealthy one of the company’s clients (Niki Spiridakos, Moontrap: Target Earth, Assailant) has activated a distress beacon just before all contact with the island was lost.

Director Philippe Martinez (The Steam Experiment, Viktor) along with his co-writers Sean-Michael Argo (Jeepers Creepers: Reborn, Binary Samurai) and Leigh Scott (Transmorphers, Pirates of Treasure Island) gives Black Noise a kick-ass prologue and follow it up with plenty of mystery once the team reaches the seemingly deserted island. Mike Mahon, making his debut as a cinematographer after working in various capacities on films like The Island and Invisible Monsters: Serial Killers in America, gives the tropical paradise a creepy, Marie Celeste feeling as the mercenaries explore it.

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Why has everyone but their client vanished? What is the loud, and painful, noise they keep hearing? And why are they having hallucinations of people and events from their past? They may not be the most original of mysteries, but Black Noise sets them up with more skill than a lot of films. It even brings in a mention of Havana Syndrome, something I haven’t seen used in a film like this before.

Unfortunately, once they get this set up, they have no idea what to do with it. Much of the film sees the team wandering around the island trying to figure out how to escape, wrestling with the trauma from whatever they’re hallucinating about, and screaming at each other. Yes, I should be expecting that from a lower-budget action film, but it’s disappointing after such a good buildup. Maybe it’s a problem inherent in the material because Arctic Void which deals with several of the same elements had the same problem making its second half work.

The action scenes we do get are extremely weak. When one character is shot at point blank range, the bullet does almost no visible damage and the CGI blood looks like a discrete puff of red smoke. Another meets the same fate as the guy in the prologue, and it’s all CGI smoke and a trickle of blood rather than a satisfyingly bloody blast. That was a major letdown, considering what Martinez and Van Damme did with a power drill and a goon’s kneecap in Wake of Death can still make me cringe all these years later.

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Eventually, after a run-in with a crazed islander, “You just killed one of the richest men in the world”, and what feels like the random dispatching of some of the remaining characters we get a climax that answers almost none of the questions viewers want an answer to and feels like a tacked-on excuse for a longish fight scene. That’s followed by a final scene that is either enigmatic or a non-ending, depending on how charitable you feel.

If I were to be charitable I’d say that after the trio of writers got the first forty minutes of Black Noise written, Leigh Scott heard the same sound the characters did, started to hallucinate he was still writing garbage like King of the Lost World for The Asylum, and wrote the cheapest, most inane, second half he could.

Black Noise is available in theaters and on Digital and VOD Platforms via Saban Films.

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