30th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘The Black String’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Frankie Muniz, Jackie Moore, Chelsea Edmundson, Ravi Patel, Blake Webb, Alexander Ward, Colby French, Cullen Douglas, Laura Richardson, Mary K. DeVault | Written by Richard Handley, Brian Hanson | Directed by Brian Hanson

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Lonely slacker Jonathan is stuck working night shifts at a convenience store. When he goes on a blind date with a strange woman, his world suddenly begins to unravel in horrifying fashion. Plagued by paranoia, illness and nightmarish visions, he desperately searches the suburbs for the mysterious seductress. His friends and family believe he’s losing his mind, but he believes he’s the target of a sinister occult plot.

The Black String comes from director Brian Hanson, who also co-wrote the film with Richard Handley – who also stars in the film as Dr. Ronaldi. For both this is their first feature, with Handley having penned some shorts previously. However in the case of Hanson is his first film period. And for a debut feature this is powerful stuff.

Surprisingly Hanson and Handley managed to bag former TV star turned rce car driver turned musician turned actor once more, Frankine Muniz for the lead role in their first feature and it could not have made for a better casting choice. Muniz, as an adult, has always had a penchant for giving wired and wiry performances and that experience pays off in spades in The Black String. You’re never 100% sure if Jonathan is totally losing it or if the occult ritual he suspects is being performed on him really IS affecting his daily life. It helps that Jonathan is what many would call a slacker, floating through life doing as little as possible. When something does happen in his life the audience is left questioning whether any of it is real or just the breakdown of someone who is losing control of their slacker existence – and that’s all down to the unstable performance of Muniz.

black-string-muniz

Now it would be easy to dismiss The Black String as yet another horror film about dating and STDs – something akin to the aforementioned It Follows – but when you discover that co-writers Richard Handley and Brian Hanson are former US military veterans this films story takes on a whole new meaning. Jonathan is clearly troubled, as we later learn in the film; and his mental state is not as stable as we’re led to believe early on – so when he suffers his fate the paranoia and fear really escalates.

It’s obvious that The Black String, whilst a cracking horror in its own right, is also a brilliant allegory for the effects of PTSD and the horror soldiers face at home, put back into society without the support they need. The loneliness Jonathan suffers from – which led to him calling the phone chat line and getting into this mess – reflecting the loneliness soldiers face without fellow vets to talk to, to share their problems with, once home.

In terms of the genre however what strikes you the most about The Black String isthe films body-horror elements which are a mix of the work of David Cronenberg and the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Both work in tandem to create a visceral, creepy and very dark, truly bleak, story which allows not only Muniz to shine but also the films writer and director – leaving me eager to see what the duo come up with next.

***** 5/5

The Black String screened at this years Arrow Video Frightfest on Monday August 26th 2019.

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