Few filmmakers set out to make bad movies, even if the quality of their work suggests otherwise. As critics and fans of cinema, we can be quick to lambast a film that doesn’t tickle our fancy or turns out to be inept. However, I like to think that everyone involved in the creation of any art at least sets out to create something of merit that will resonate with people on some level. Sometimes the most enjoyable movies are misfires made by artists whose talents didn’t match their ambitions — the Ed Wood’s, et al. — but even some forgettable efforts tend to have their heart in the right place.
With this in mind, I didn’t hate Black Creek, the latest feature-length from House of Salem (2016) director James Crow. That’s not because I enjoyed it per se, but it’s fairly inoffensive and, despite its shortcomings, I left with the impression that everyone involved was at least trying to deliver something worthwhile. I doubt this will be rediscovered in years to come as a treasure in the wastelands of forgotten VOD releases where it’s destined to roam; instead, it’ll get lost among the rest of the movies of a similar ilk that were easy to shrug off and forget about upon release.
The premise is simple; a pair of siblings (played Chris O’Flyng and Brianna Shae) and their friends head into the wilderness to scatter their father’s ashes only to fall prey to a Native American spirit with the ability to possess people. It’s a standard yarn featuring people getting picked off and possessed in the woods, and if you’ve seen horror movies before you’re already familiar with the set-up.
Suffice to say, the film is a poster child for the type of pedestrian and generic indie fare that employs well-worn premises and executes them with little style or pzazz. That said, there are stems of an interesting movie to be found, so to write it off without noting some of the positive aspects would be doing it an unfair disservice.
For a start, the story introduces an interesting mythology pertaining to the urban legend in question. America is a country made up of regions which boast their own folktales, especially ones based in the campfire stories of the nation’s Native roots. For awhile, Black Creek is a fun ode to this type of supernatural cultural identity; unfortunately, the film doesn’t take full advantage of what could have been the fabrication of an engaging mythology and, thus, becomes redundant eventually.
Another highlight is Pete Coleman’s score, which echoes John Carpenter’s synth-driven doomscapes and incorporates Native American flute music. There are passages in Black Creek that feel uneventful and meaningless, but the music brings enough life to proceedings to ensure the movie always feels like it’s prodding along, even during some of the more unengaging moments.
The cast is fine, meanwhile, even if their roles are subjected to playing bland stereotypes. The performances aren’t particularly noteworthy with the exception of O’Flyng, who’s a popular Youtube star with undeniable presence and charisma.. Here, he showcases enough potential to suggest better roles could be in his future should be decide to be pickier with the projects he chooses. Elsewhere, the majority of the cast, while far from amazing, do give it their all, and their enthusiasm does enough to overcome their shortcomings. No one is going to win any awards for their performance in Black Creek, but there are far better movies out there featuring more amateurish outings.
Overall, Black Creek isn’t a good movie. There’s no real tension or splatter to deliver an effective or entertaining 90 minutes of predictable scare fare. But for a time passer to stick on in the background while you zone out from the world, it’s more than sufficient. Of course, unless you’re a teenager, you’re not the target audience for this anyway.
Black Creek hits VOD nationwide on February 16.