Thursday, August 11, 2016

Blackburn Draws You Down into a Fiery Rabbit Hole: A Film Review

*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by 3Brane Entertainment. This reviewer and writer Nastasha Baron have worked on publicity for this film.

Director: Lauro Chartrand.

Writer: Nastasha Baron.

Cast: Lochlyn Munro, Calum Worthy, Alexander Calvert, Emilie Ullerup and Sarah Lind.

Blackburn is an indie film from 3Brane Entertainment. Filmed near Vancouver, British Columbia, this title was shot by long-time stunt co-ordinator Lauro Chartrand. And, the film was written by 3Brane Entertainment studio head Nastasha Baron. Starring Lochlyn Munro (Poker Night), Calum Worthy, Sarah Lind and many more, this film is a restricted horror outing. The film hosts a bit of ADR (automated dialogue replacement), but it is hardly noticeable. The film's story, involving a group of escaped mental patients, is more significant, in that characters and subplots are well developed. The bloodshed and murder amplify the plot, but do not distract from the compelling story. Blackburn is an intelligent and gory horror film, which should not be missed.

The film has only one hiccup, in this viewer's opinion. There is a bit of dubbing in Act I. ADR is this film fan's one pet peeve. Poor ADR can distract and deconstruct the reality of a film. That does not really happen here, though. This film fan has seen entire films with its sound recorded for a second time; it is not a pretty sight. Fortunately, the missteps in the Blackburn soundtrack only occur occasionally. As well, the ADR is almost seamless and hard to notice, unless you have a trained eye. This one detriment should not keep horror fans from seeing this excellent title.

The story is what matters in film. In Blackburn, the story begins as you might expect, in the horror genre. Five college friends are heading out to a cabin, in Alaska. However, events start to veer off the typical genre plotline, when the friends encounter a rockslide. A rubble strewn road forces the characters back the way they came. Then, a forest fire hems them into an isolated location. Here, the only refuge is an old mine. This is not a place one would want to stay. The mine shafts are filled with burned lunatics, who have escaped an insane asylum. These friends have no place to go and they do not stand a chance against this horde of villains.

The bloodletting in the film can be shocking. Makeup effects, from Nikki Blais, John L. Healy, Kyle Huculak and many more, enhance the visual, blood red display. Villains appear scarred and burned, from a fire at the mental hospital. One central villain has an entire side of her face burned off. The visual effects are often jarring. As well, many of the bloodier sequences involve: stabbings, eye gougings, torture sequences, conflagrations and all sorts of disturbing scenarios. Chartrand brings some of his stunt expertise to the film, in some of the final sequences. The entire mine begins to burn to the ground and so do many of the more murderous characters. Horror fans will be shocked by what the film crew has cooked up for them.

The film's writing is its strongest element. Screenwriter Baron has put a lot of work into the characters, plot and history of the settings. The main character in the film, Jade (Sarah Lind), is well rounded. Her expertise in the use of a bow is explained and so are her motivations. There is a reason she wants to rescue a tiny toddler, in later scenes. As well, even the villains are developed. There are a host of killers, including: Mary (Maja Aro, Rebecca Husain), Digits (Ken Kirzinger), 3Eyes (Brad Loree), Poppy (Sylvia Soska) and Posey (Jen Soska). Each is given atleast a few lines of backstory, before the killing begins. Mary is the most central villain. She is also the reason why the Blackburn Asylum burnt to the ground. The plot and its central conflict are not rushed, but developed through dialogue and newspaper clippings. Meanwhile, the mine is a character unto itself. Its dark halls and many side rooms amplify the film's tension and mystery. The characters can only hide for so long, in this maze-like tomb. All of these writing elements will draw viewer's into the film's compelling narrative.

Blackburn is a brutal and fiery horror outing. Deserving of its restricted rating, the film hosts a huge assortment of disturbing scenes and sequences. Meanwhile, each character is given appropriate attention and thankfully, the villains are given their own murderous motivations. The ADR is a minor hiccup and soon forgotten. Also, the writing fills in any blanks and there are no plot holes to be found here. A sequel is teased, however, so events are not completely tied up. And while actors Lochlyn Munro, Sylvia Soska and Jen Soska are only given a few scenes, there is a lot of horror here to chew on.

Overall: 7.25 out of 10.

A second trailer for Blackburn is available here, on 28DLA:

Trailer #2 for Blackburn on 28DLA

A fan page for the film: Blackburn on Facebook

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