BLACK CREEK (2017)
Directed by James Crow
Written by James Crow
Starring Chris O’Flyng, Leah Patrick, Michael Hill, Robert Lowe, Brianna Shae, Pierse Stevens, Rachel Vedder, Kaylee Williams
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BLACK CREEK is a low budget horror film that at first glance might feel more like a GOOSEBUMPS episode, but director James Crow (who delivered the somewhat impressive HOUSE OF SALEM earlier this month) adds a few sophisticated elements and a dark sense of dread to make it a bit more of a sophisticated little backwoods horror film.
Mike (Chris O’Flyng) has muddled memories of his childhood—spending time with his dad and fearing the old Native American legends of his ancestors. When his father passes away, Mike and his sister load up the car with some of their friends for a weekend of partying and scattering of his father’s ashes. Mike believes the hazy memories of his youth were a result of an overactive imagination, but an evil body-swapping force has risen once again from the creek and jumps from one body to another on his way towards Mike who seems destined to take on the monster by himself.
As with HOUSE OF SALEM, Crow exhibits a deft handling of setting up a unique horror and a moody atmosphere around it. Called a “skinwalker” in this film, the transfer of the entity from one body to another is done in a fun style reminiscent of THE HIDDEN where the victim becomes the killer soon after they die. While the CG is rather rough seeing this transfer of the evil soul, the deaths are choreographed in a fun way. And while the term “skinwalker” isn’t used in the way it has been in the past (with the monster being a form of werewolf in Native American culture), it proves to be a formidable little force of evil and one entertaining to watch wreak havoc.
The film hits a few speed bumps in terms of acting. The young cast just seems to be unable to emote to the level of what the story requires of them. This definitely hurts the film in terms of empathizing with the characters. The fact that the kids seem to be actually in their teens is appreciated, but it also is evident that they haven’t had a lot of experience acting yet either.
Still, there are some decisions Crow makes throughout the film that ups the ante on the gore, stakes, and danger and makes it feel toothier than what I expected once I saw the young cast. Sure, as a forty something, I had difficulty identifying with the kids of the film, but the fact that there is a lot of risk shown in the story makes the stakes a bit higher and I respect this film more than I would have had it played it safe. In the end, BLACK CREEK is a teen horror film with more of an edge than I expected. It’s not great, but it shows Crow is a filmmaker worth remembering and BLACK CREEK might be a film I would have loved as a teenager. If you’re a teen or if you’ve got one, this one is relatively tame enough to use this as a gateway into harder edged horror films. The dark ending and cool kills make it better than it should be.