2008 // New Zealand // Ben Hawker // November 13, 2009 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
For what it is--an ultra-low-budget bit of horror mindfuckery that employs only a handful of actors and locations--Ben Hawker's Blackspot is a worthwhile, white-knuckle stuff. While Hawker cribs a little from urban legend for his story, Blackspot is essentially a pleasurable mash-up of contemporary horror film tropes, Twilight Zone twists and "It-Was-All-a-Dream" fake-outs, and, most surprisingly, David's Lynch brand of pitch-black psychological surrealism. It's hard not to ignore the debt to Lynch in the film's identity-swapping and (seemingly) context-free interludes, not to mention its direct referencing of Lost Highway's iconographic speeding interstate stripes. Hawker nails both the distinctive creepiness of a nocturnal rural road at night as well as the flesh-crawling sense of the uncanny that pervades nightmares. Yet he is too enamored with jump-scares and comic releases to permit grimness to overtake the film. This is both to Blackspot's advantage and its detriment, stranding it in a middle ground between an old-school ghost story and something more ambitious. While Hawker eventually comes around to something like an explanation for all the preceding weirdness, it seems weak tea compared to the dizzying fear that swells the film's best moments.