Well, today was an amazing day. I was lucky enough to join the cast and crew of Black Wake for one of their last days of principal photography. Through my work at HorrorSociety.com, I’ve become acquainted with the previous efforts from the film’s director Mr. Jeremiah Kipp, such as Crestfallen, Painkiller and editions of “In Fear Of.” This film-making journey was especially interesting because it was the first time I’d get to experience the man in action, leading his well-staffed crew, minor characters and dead-like and infected extras through some intense kill scenes and pick-up shots. Before I get ahead of myself, I’d like to start from the beginning. Being that the title Black Wake is directly related to a type of waterway, obvious filming needed to take place around a gigantic body of water. The destination for today’s filming was the historic Paterson Falls National Park. The Falls features bridges, canyons, cliffs, and of course, breathtaking waterfalls. In all honesty, I’d never been shooting on a location that grand before and I was extremely impressed.
When I arrived on set with actor Randy Memoli, the cast and crew of Black Wake had already begun shooting small scenes involving police and poor souls infected by the parasites. Randy Memoli, known throughout New Jersey for his appearances in Covenant, Gitchy, Gloom and Mary Horror, was on hand as a featured ravenous parasite-zombie. Or, maybe zombie isn’t the best term to describe just some of the villains in the movie. As explained by Jeremiah Kipp, “Our story is inspired by HP Lovecraft, where he has the Elder Gods who are brewing under the Earth and coming back to destroy everything. Our main villain is that, a creature that is evil and beyond our imagination and waiting to consume. The way it shows itself first is through these parasites that transmit from person to person and once they’re infected, they’re drawn to the ocean or to the sea because that’s where the main creature is lying dormant. When the parasites infect somebody they’re transformed into something like a zombie, but our ‘zombies’ are not exactly George Romero zombies. They’re intensely curious. They’ve got ticks that you’d expect from a junkie who needs a fix. They’re decidedly unhuman and alien and remote. When they speak, it’s as if they’re speaking from a deep, very old place that doesn’t understand our human language. When they attack, they’re immediately lethal and fast. I wouldn’t even call them 28 Days Later zombies because they’re still more of their own thing.”
After a quick location change, also situated within the historic waterfalls, and some special effects work that were equally as impressive as the location itself, filming resumed with Mr. Memoli and other familiar faces I’ve encountered while making the rounds and working on various sets. Shout out to Patrick Devaney, Missy Heather, Nick Petito and Thomas Ryan! Scenes that were filmed at the new location included monster B-roll, an attack scene on some stairs, an attack scene on a hill and other small pieces of a larger puzzle. I couldn’t help but notice everyone working so hard to make Black Wake the best it could be, I only wish I had learned more people’s names! On the flip side, there are some extremely recognizable faces appearing in Black Wake, though, ones that you’re sure to recognize. Most of the lead and supporting cast is comprised of former Golden Globe Nominee Tom Sizemore (Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan), former Oscar Nominee Eric Roberts (The Cable Guy, The Dark Knight), Anthony Marks (Airplane vs. Volcano, “One Life to Live”), Christopher Stadulis (“All My Children,” “The Following”), Brett Azar (Jersey Shore Massacre, Terminator: Genisys), Jonny Beauchamp (“Penny Dreadful”), Nana Gouvea, Rich Graff, Jeremy Fernandez, Alex Emanuel and Adam Ratcliffe.
So just how does all of these actors and their characters run into the parasites? Kipp says, “A lot of HP Lovecraft’s characters are scientists or investigators. In our case we have scientists, a detective and policemen. Initially they’re investigating what they think is a seris of murders and then they wonder if it’s some sort of outbreak. They’re motivated to find out and contain what’s going on, so they’re people who are trying to control the flood of an epidemic. They all have an interest in the science or criminality of what’s going on. Nana Gouvea plays as scientist who is a bit of a maverick and a bit of a rebel who’s following the thread of a book that’s very Necronomicon in nature; where-as her colleagues don’t believe that’s the direction to go. She’s the one who has her finger on the pulse of what’s really going on. She’s joined by Tom Sizemore who plays a detective investigating the series of murders and finds himself pulled into this supernatural scenario as well. He’s under a lot of different pressures due to his level of involvement. Our third lead, an antihero, is played by Jonny Beauchamp. He plays a homeless man who speaks gibberish, but as the story comes together it becomes apparent that he may be the key to what’s going on. A very desperate group of characters find themselves interacting and working together to solve this mystery that threatens to destroy everything.”
Despite the gore, the violence and the classic monster movie themes, Black Wake still manages to contain the typical Jeremiah Kipp charm; meaning that it has a layer of class, a layer of smarts and a layer of originality added into it. During my short involvement with this upcoming title, it became apparent that Kipp’s directing style mixed with notorious occult creatures will make Black Wake stand out in the crowd when compared to other horror and science fiction titles. Asked about how he would describe the film, Kipp is quoted as saying, “I’ve enjoyed playing with the science fiction elements of it, which is something I like about Jerry Janda’s writing – where I think he is compelled by weird science. When he went into writing the script for Black Wake, he became pretty obsessed with how the science works while also being properly disgusting and uncomfortable for the viewer. So, I’d call the film a science fiction thriller or science fiction horror.”
With great conviction I can say that Black Wake is one of the best film sets I’ve visited. The wheels of production were constantly turning, meaning time wasn’t wasted. The crew seemed on top of their jobs and the actors and extras on set seemed genuinely happy to be there, to help out. The location was absolutely stunning and was just a joy to be around when I wasn’t sneaking behind the frame to snap a few photos. Normally, I’d wish a film good luck as they continue with shoot dates; however, Black Wake is nearly completed so instead I’ll say this… I have a feeling it won’t be long until this baby secures a distribution deal and lands in your DVD collection. And I’m so grateful to have witnessed a piece of it in advance! Thank you to everyone for the warm welcome and for the opportunity. Keep up to date on its progress on Facebook.
Black Wake is written by Jerry Janda with producer Carlos Keyes and cinematography from Kenneth Kotowski.