BLACK WATER VAMPIRE
Director: Evan Tramel
Screenplay: Evan Tramel
Starring: Danielle Lozeau, Andrea Monier, Anthony Fanelli, Robin Steffen
Running Time: 79 Mins
Release Date: 24/03/14
Reviewed by Guy Adams
The found footage genre has become tricky to remain objective about. When done right it can be terribly effective, offering verisimilitude and potency. Sadly, like all trends in cinema, rather than being embraced occasionally as a interesting tool for the right project it became the low budget filmmaker’s dream.
On the surface it might appear that using the trope removes the need for technical expertise and expensive equipment, put simply: it ’s easy to copy. So every wannabe filmmaker did. Now, having hit saturation point, I know there are many who run a mile at the very notion of slogging their way through eighty minutes of shaky, indistinct images of teenagers screaming at very little.
The simple truth that many filmmakers miss is this: it takes skill to successfully shoot something in an amateurish style. Like Les Dawson, blissfully hammering out a piano tune that’s missing all the right notes, you have to know how to do something right in order to mimic doing it badly. The screen will still find you out, found footage doesn’t hide ineptitude, frequently it shines a ultraviolet night-filter right on it.
I’m somewhat on the fence. As a reviewer I’ve had to endure some awful filmmaking in the sub genre, but I’m only too aware I’d have missed a few genuine greats if I’d not tried to retain an open mind.
BLACK WATER VAMPIRE makes a great deal about the fact that it brings something fresh to the form by introducing vampires. Said vampires are actually terribly good. They’re well-realised, they’re scary and they are certainly the saving grace of the film.
If only they were in it a bit more. Because BLACK WATER VAMPIRE is one hour of Black Water and twenty minutes of vampire. Which, while conventional enough structurally, means that the first hour has to work a lot better than it does for the movie as a whole to be a success. For all of screenwriter and director Evan Tramel’s talk of wanting to do something a bit different, the first hour is terribly familiar. The characters aren’t particularly engaging (and Danielle Lozeau never quite convinces as our lead, being two parts false to three parts unlikeable) and the build up of tension is workmanlike.
Our team of amateur filmmakers are trying to solve the mystery of a string of killings. The police of Black Water believe they have the killer (Raymond Banks, played by Bill Oberst Jr. having a whale of a time during his three minute cameo). Danielle (Lozeau) thinks they’re wrong and sets out into the wilds to prove as much. Naturally she does.
If you enjoy found footage movies and you can forgive the lack of originality in the first hour the pay-off is worthy, creepy and, on a couple of distinct occasions actually makes solid use of the found footage conceit. If you can’t then the characters’ trudge through very little on the hunt for a story may feel all too close for comfort.