"“An entertaining and suspenseful thriller...”"
Adam Wimpenny's Blackwood bears a frustratingly generic set-up, of the tried and tested horror movie formula, whereby our protagonists – that of an innocent family with a sweet little kid, move into a big, spooky new home in the middle of nowhere, where unexpected, supernatural happenings occur. However the British filmmaker's cinematic debut manages to feel unique and compelling in spite of such conventionality.
Ed Stoppard plays Ben Marshall, a hard-working university lecturer, who has recently moved to a new house in the country with his frustrated stay-at-home wife Rachel (Sophia Myles) and their only child, Harry (Isaac Andrews). When Ben starts seeing apparitional visions, he grows increasingly paranoid that the house is haunted – and when he discovers the mysterious, chilling disappearance of two locals had taken place before his arrival, he becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, pointing his finger at the local priest (Paul Kaye) and groundsman Jack (Russell Tovey).
Despite the commonplace surroundings, there are enough unexpected twists and turns in the narrative to keep the audience captivated, with a well-crafted finale to tie everything together. Meanwhile the film is wonderfully atmospheric, with a harrowingly brooding ambiance prevalent, and an impressive cinematography. However where Blackwood suffers, is within the contrivance in aspects of the story, while there is a distinct lack of chemistry between Ben and his wife Rachel. Though that shouldn't be an issue as such, as a relationship that is decidedly on the rocks, their dialogue feels very wooden and formulaic, and you can almost read the script when they talk.
That said, Stoppard turns in a commendable performance, as we watch on as his character goes on this emotionally exhausting journey, and he plays his characters' mental decline with a sense of sincerity. You believe he's losing his mind, and the Ben Marshall that ends this film is notably less confident, and only a mere shadow of the charismatic lecturer who began the piece. The supporting roles are also good, however one can't help but question why Torvey continues to take such small, insubstantial roles in British films. He's evidently a talented actor and should be looking for roles more like Ben Marshall, than Jack the bloody groundsman.
Of a similar ilk to the likes of The Others or The Awakening, Blackwood is an entertaining and suspenseful thriller, despite sadly being more akin to the latter, than reaching the brilliant heights of the former. It's certainly a promising debut for Wimpenny too, however you'd hope that in his second feature film, he attempts to take a few more risks and tries to be notably more creative and unprecedented – because the talent that exists is undeniable.