Wednesday, 7 September 2016


Not a film about the horrors of living in Lancashire, Blackburn is a flick I've been looking forward to for some time.
First brought to my attention when mentioned by the wonderful twisted twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska (who both appear in the movie), it was the sisters' genre credentials that convinced me to check out the movie.
Now, after months of waiting, the film has finally received a UK DVD release.
So is it too hot to handle?
Or just a big burn-out?
Read on...


Dir: Lauro Chartrand
Stars: Sarah Lind, Emilie Ullerup, Calum Worthy, Alexander Calvert, Zach Peladeau, Ken Kirzinger, Lochlyn Munro, Brandi Alexander, Brad Loree, Maja Aro, Jacqueline Robbins, Joyce Robbins

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here, but continue at your own risk.

The film opens with Rob (the most recognisable face in the movie, Munro) checking out a closed mine that his company intends to reopen. Rather irresponsibly, he's also brought his wife Barb (Alexander) and their infant along.
Needless to say, this family outing does NOT go well.
From here we meet Jade (Lind); her dishonest boyfriend Ryan (Worthy); her spoilt friend Chelsea (Ullerup); Chelsea's dogsbody boyfriend and Ryan's bestfriend Luke (Calvert); and Jade's serious teacher's assistant Shaun (Peladeau).
The youngsters are on a road trip to a remote cabin in Alaska to party.
However, the wild frontier soon provides dual obstacles: a rockslide on one side and a raging forest fire a little further down the highway.
When night falls, the stranded group decide to check out the aforementioned abandoned gold mine for shelter. What they don't realise is that the mine has since become a home for several lunatics, the badly burned survivors of a terrible fire that razed the nearby Blackburn Insane Asylum to the ground.
As the group are forced to run and fight for their lives, a whole team of deranged slashers stalks their every move...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I'm a sucker for a good horror movie monster and Blackburn certainly delivers on this front. 
The two henchmen, Digits (played by genre stalwart Kirzinger, who portrayed the titular Voorhees in Freddy vs Jason) and 3Eyes (who boasts an equally impressive horror pedigree, having played Michael Myers in Halloween: Resurrection) are both pretty cool, bringing a nice intensity to the roles.
However, it is the chief villain, Mary (seasoned stuntwoman Aro) who really steals the spotlight. This is a very cool female slasher villain with a unique look that takes that old genre trope (the woman in white or creepy bride) and gives it a fresh spin, adding in some truly great burn make-up effects. Aro understands how subtle movements can really ratchet up the scare factor, and uses this to great effect. I can only assume she got some pointers from her experienced fellow monsters!
The make-up effects throughout the film are pretty damn good, and although, for the most part, the villains are usually shot in darkness, when we are afforded better glimpses at their faces the work done by the Blackburn team truly impresses. It seems pretty apparent that Blackburn didn't have the largest production budget so it's a real testament to these guys that they achieved such great looking effects. Bravo!
The villains are also given a very cool flashback to flesh out their characters and motivation. I usually hate an exposition dump by a cliched wise man/woman, but the manner in which this one is done is SO good it may even have been my favourite scene in the whole movie! It looked great, it played out fantastically and gave the audience a brilliant look at the dangers ahead for our protagonists without ever derailing the flow of the film. Excellent.
It certainly helped that the expo-dump was coming from the tremendously entertaining Robbins sisters. As oddball hermits Ivy and Iris, they may well be favourite crazy locals since Old Ralph in Friday the 13th.
The rest of the cast vary in terms of experience, so the performances are something of a mixed bag. The always reliable Lochlyn Munro delivers during his (limited) screen time, while of our leads I was most impressed with the versatile Peladeau. He's a likeable guy, and he has the looks and acting chops to suggest he could well be one to watch in the future. Elsewhere very pretty, rising-star Ullerup does enough to suggest she could make for quite the scream queen should she choose to stick with our beloved genre. Here's hoping.
Of course the actors can only work with what the script gives them and here I think writer Natasha Baron does a decent enough job of giving our characters convincing motivation to put themselves in exactly the kind of stupid situations that we expect from slasher fodder. It's a simple story that doesn't really bring much new to the table, but I think it's safe to say that the bulk of slasher fans don't watch for originality, just a neat enough way to tie the assorted gore sequences together. Consider that job done in Blackburn.
And what of those gore sequences? Well, once again the effects department deliver. With some suitably gruesome eyeball removal, a nicely done blowtorch to the face scene and lots of glistening, gory, maggoty flesh on display, there are some suitably grim tidbits for splatterfans.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As I said earlier, I don't think it's unfair to say that Blackburn had a pretty modest production budget. Most of the time is succeeds despite this, but there are a couple of points in the film at which its humble means become apparent.
As is often the case, these mostly involve CG, such as during the wholly unconvincing rockfall sequence. Sadly, these moments did take me out of the film somewhat. Thankfully there aren't TOO many of these.
This comparative lack of finance is also evident in the visuals — the film does feel a little 'TV movie'-ish at times and is decidedly less polished than slick, Hollywood genre flicks such as this summer's The Conjuring 2.
There were also times at which the cast's lack of experience shone through. Sometimes wooden line delivery and less convincing reactions almost gave some of the leads an oddly disinterested air. Sadly, lead heroine Lind was the most guilty of this which really affected my sympathy towards her character. I can't help but feel that the time constraints that so often accompany budgetary limitations probably worked against the cast and crew here.
The cast were also certainly hindered by some decidedly dodgy dialogue. The  'bad ass' line during the climactic showdown is especially disappointing and doesn't even make sense. Oh well.
Finally, after their cool intro Digits and 3Eyes aren't really given much to do other than be generic goonish bad guys. Some nastiness that more closely mirrored their pre-asylum M.O.s would have been nice. The same can also be said of the always very welcome Soska sisters, whose actual screen time amounts to little more than a cameo. Very disappointing.

THE VERDICT: Blackburn is an entertaining little film, but it doesn't really deliver much more than some cool bad guys. Sadly, the low budget, inconsistent cast and a general lack of originality mean it almost certainly won't be topping many end of year polls, instead merely hitting a grade of 'kind of okay, I suppose'.
Nevertheless, if you want a no-thrills slasher where you can enjoy a beer and pizza while you put your brain in neutral, and for the bargain price of just £7.99, you could do a lot worse than Blackburn. Set your expectations low and there's plenty here to keep you happy.

Blackburn was released on DVD here in the UK this Monday (5 September). You can buy it from Amazon here. Check out the film's Facebook page here.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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