Writer-Director James Crow has a growing body of independent genre films to his credit. His latest offering, Black Creek (2017), was released to streaming services just last month. The film’s synopsis promises a blend of slasher film conventions with a supernatural twist. While Black Creek is a low-budget film with no recognizable talent in the credits, this is a generally not a liability for slasher films.
Following the death of his father, Mike and his older sister, Heather, head up to the family’s cabin in the woods of Black Creek, Wisconsin, to spread his ashes. Mike’s friends come along for the ride and a weekend of drinking, drugs, and sex. Unfortunately, the high school students are unaware of a string of missing persons cases that may be linked to a decades-old murder case and Native American mythology. The teens will soon discover that Black Creek sits on land where atrocities were committed against an Indigenous tribe and the vengeful spirit of the Wisconsin Skin Walker.
Something Dull This Way Comes
There isn’t much I can recommend about Black Creek to discerning horror fans. The good news is that Black Creek clocks in at at a trim 80 minutes and Crow does not waste time moving from murder to murder. Despite the film’s attempts to incorporate supernatural folklore into the narrative it still mindlessly follows the familiar plot beats of a slasher film. Rambunctious teens venture out to a cabin in the remote woods and, despite warnings from the locals, they do drink, smoke, pot, and have sex. Peripheral characters are randomly introduced and killed in short order to up the film’s body count. What’s missing from Black Creek is suspense, scares, and inventively over-the-top death scenes. The film is dreadfully dull with nothing remotely approaching a genuine scare over the film’s 80 minutes. While the film is short its pacing still feels awkward as the narrative clumsily moves from murder to murder. Gorehounds will also be seriously disappointed with the death scenes; the budge for Black Creek clearly did not go to make-up effects.
Genre fans are not watching low-budget horror films for Oscar–caliber performances, but the acting in Black Creek is particularly weak. All the performances are extremely wooden across the board. In addition, Crow’s screenplay and dialogue fail offer many distractions. Clunky and expository dialogue are littered throughout the film. A past murder discussed several times by characters is creatively referred to as “The Jimmy Murders”. With its clumsy pacing and bland death scenes Black Creek can’t distract from the acting and, as a result, the performances drag down what could have just been a dull film to truly awful territory.
Crow clearly had some bigger ideas kicking around in Black Creek – the film’s references to crimes against Native Americans hints at desired deeper meanings. Despite these good intentions, the film never remotely approaches being watchable. Ted Geoghegan’s Mohawk, another recent horror film available for streaming, does a much better job with this theme. Budgetary constraints, poor acting, and a rigid adherence to slasher conventions ultimately weigh Black Creek down. I would advise against taking the trip to Black Creek as horror fans won’t find much here to entertain.