Black Site Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by Tom Paton Film
Written and directed by Tom Paton
2018, 91 minutes
Frightfest UK Premiere on 27th August 2018
Jessica-Jane Stafford as Agent Ackerman
Lauren Ashley Carter as Agent Leonhart
Samantha Schnitzler as Ren
Kris Johnson as Erebus
Mike Beckingham as Sam
Black Site follows a recipe that no horror film fan would mind being passed down generations in the same manner as an heirloom family apple strudel.
With an unmistakably ‘80s Carpenter-esque score, Dredd- and The Raid-inspired action choreography, a familiar human-donning-alien sci-fi survival narrative, and a Hannibal-like villain who is an utterance of “I’m having an old friend for dinner” away from Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, it is an unashamed amalgam of many ingredients we celebrate in the genre.
Throw in some light-hearted comedy and the odd heartstring-pulling scenes, and you have what grows from an initial semblance as a low-budget, lowbrow sci-fi action flick into a much more ambitious and genre-blurring (if not particularly original or narratively challenging) gem.
Young Ren (Samantha Schnitzler) is training to be a field army agent at The Artemis Black Site military base when she hears that the ancient ‘Elder God’ alien Erebus (Kris Johnson), who killed her parents when she was a child and is living inside a human host, has been captured and needs deporting back to when it came from.
Determined to face Erebus herself, she must escort the deportation officer Sam (Mike Beckingham) through The Artemis Black Site in one piece to its banishment base - and get passed Erebus’ loyal followers on the way.
To follow his vampire-in-the-woods effort Redwood last year, British writer and director Tom Paton relies largely on the confinement of the building to largely shape the action for his third feature.
As with the SWAT team in The Raid, Ren, Sam and their enemies’ constant movement through the building, as they look around every corner and unlock every door, provides tension and a munificent measure of martial arts action.
There’s some filler amongst the killer at times, but generally the pace during its 90 minutes is well kept. And although, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t come anywhere neat to rivaling the elaborate choreography of its aforementioned healthier-budgeted action films, nifty camerawork makes for some satisfying alien (and human) endings.
While Schnitzler seemingly instinctively realizes the kick-ass, quick-quipping protagonist, her nemesis Johnson cuts a Machiavellian figure as a captive Erebus, strutting artfully around his electronically enforced cage in a cool and calculated manner that more than resembles the genre’s King cannibal himself.
From the small details (like the site’s melodramatic safety instruction video) to the provocatively heavy-handed synths of the almost-ever-present cyberpunk soundtrack (that you’ll immediately want to own on vinyl, by the way), Black Site is a cheesy yet well crafted caricature of ‘80s-reminiscent cosmic horror that’d slip nicely alongside the likes of Escape from New York and Altered States in an ‘80s horror movie marathon.