Review: Jeremiah Kipp’s Black Wake

I’m going to be honest, I was slightly apprehensive when it came to reviewing Jeremiah Kipp’s science fiction thriller, Black Wake, because it’s heavily influenced by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Outside of knowing who/what Cthulhu is, I don’t have any profound education in Lovecraft’s work and I was nervous that I wouldn’t “get” the atmosphere built into Black Wake. However, I briefly visited the film’s set towards the end of principal photography, and the grand locations, featured movie stars, and overall professionalism found me anticipating its future release. We’re at that moment now, with Black Wake seeing its world premiere next month, and I jumped at the opportunity to watch and review the flick that I’ve been waiting on for so long. *Exhales* Let me tell you, it was well worth the wait – if not only for that bone-chilling ending on the beach – and my fears were put to rest; so allow me to put yours to rest, too. Black Wake is an incredibly produced thriller that transcends movie genre boundaries and styles, effortlessly mixing science fiction, horror, action, found footage and traditional narrative material into one superb, end of the world masterpiece. It’s, no pun intended, a gigantic beast and capable of being understood without prior Lovecraft knowledge.

I should say that Black Wake isn’t an adaption of any previous H.P. Lovecraft work, because I don’t think it is. More-so, director Jeremiah Kipp, writer Jerry Janda and producer Carlos Keyes found inspiration and guidance from his bizarre works of fiction. Using that blueprint, they created a project under Carlos Keyes Entertainment and Red Entertainment Agency that is bound to be one of the most talked about science fiction films of 2018. Intriguing, ominous, and Species-like in nature. Its story follows a series of strange deaths on the beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. A scientist in a top secret facility, two special agents, and a determined detective race to get to the bottom of the mystery before more lives are stolen. However, after uncovering crazed writings from a homeless man, a chain of events start to unravel and it becomes apparent that the deaths aren’t attributed to the work of a serial killer. Something ancient, something evil is at work… and it’s already too late to stop it from spreading. Nana Gouvea (Blood Circus), Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan), Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), Vincent Pastore (“The Sopranos”), Johnny Beauchamp (“Penny Dreadful”), Chuck Zito (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jeremy Fernandez, Rich Graff, J.W. Cortes (“Gotham”), David Gere (The Purge: Election Year) and Kelly Rae Legault lead the all-star cast in this fantasy twinged thrill ride of epic proportions.

Black Wake is literally a movie that I enjoyed from the watery opening credits to the “oh shit, we’re fucked” ending. At first, I didn’t know if Nana Gouvea was the right woman for her role, as she is absolutely the main character in this story. She performed her dialogue rather slowly at first, but the longer I went into the movie, the more I could appreciate her work. I feel as if the reason she spoke so slowly to the camera was because she was having trouble with her own thoughts and making sense out of what she was saying, and in return she was trying to choose her words wisely in case her video footage made it into the hands of someone else. Plus, the way Nana emotes her feelings and the way her character degenerates during the course of the movie was a true testament to her potential as a leading actress. Well done. And, really, Black Wake could become its own drinking game. Take a shot whenever you see a celebrity pop up. Guaranteed you won’t make it past the first half hour! This is also a testament to the potential that Kip, Keyes, and Janda have behind-the-camera. They pulled off an incredible feature film that so many independent film-makers are going to be envious of. I can only imagine what they could do with a larger budget. Jesus… Jumping back into my real review, let me state that Black Wake has a lot of talking, but the descriptions and the theorizing paint a very dark and disturbing picture. These descriptions are reminiscent to “The Twilight Zone” and help to plunge the viewer into another world where otherworldly beings exist.

Another one of its strengths, Black Wake goes through the motions from all sides of the coin – our lead scientist (Nana), government agents, a detective, two documentary students, a doctor and all of the helpless victims who are consumed in this outbreak. Let me tell you, I never thought I’d see Vincent Pastore playing a doctor! Finally, Black Wake‘s biggest lure is its villain and its minions. The monsters that were created for this movie are even more sinister than usual because they’re more than wild animals. They’re smart. They’re intelligent. And they have a goal. When they go into a human vessel, they turn them into zombie-like toys that are forced to do their bidding. Now, a genius – GENIUS – decision was made behind-the-scenes and both the little baddies and the big momma were barely used in this feature. That was so smart because it will keep the audience in anticipation for their arrival while also keeping them from being over saturated (pun intended). Think Halloween. Think Blair Witch Project. If used the right way, sometimes less is more and less is more effective. The digital effects were on point, helping our critters to remain as maniacal and dangerous as they were meant to be without appearing blurry. Of course, I have to mention cinematographers Kenneth Kotowski and Chris Bye, because without them setting up the shots, none of these works of science fiction would be as beautiful to watch.

I could go on and on about this motion picture, but you really need to see it for yourself in February and in the coming months as it takes over the film festival circuit. Expertly produced and with an originally alluring story, Black Wake is the science fiction story fans of the genre have been waiting for. It succeeds on every level as a building story and the action, suspense, and strong performances guide the ship into unrelentingly mysterious territory. I’m trying to think of something negative to say, but I can’t. This one is a sleeper hit in the making and I cannot wait to see how far it goes. Jump into the abyss and let yourself be enveloped in this story that’s intense, impactful and bound to freak you out. Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)