Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Evan Tramel
Writer: Evan Tramel
Producer: Jesse Baget, Andrea Monier
Stars: Danielle Lozeau, Andrea Monier, Anthony Fanelli, Robin Steffen, Bill Oberst Jr.
A documentary film crew hikes deep into a forest to investigate rumors of a vampire connected to a series of serial murders.
Everyone tired of “found footage” horror films, yet still watching them regularly and reading critical commentary afterward, is as fed up with “Blair Witch Project” comparisons as they are with the sub-genre. Except “Black Water Vampire” is such a blatant echo of found footage’s patron saint that not stacking the vampire copycat against its witchy inspiration would be a dishonest disservice to any review.
Four amateur documentarians investigate a local legend by interviewing folksy townspeople, sniping at each other when tensions run high, having their tent tampered with in the night, and getting lost in the woods before finally confronting the supernatural entity they hoped to find in the first place. Eliminate the number beginning that sentence and the description summarizes both “Black Water Vampire” and “The Blair Witch Project.” Even details like a noteworthy rock and a distinctive creek feature as prominent landmarks in each story. I’m also not convinced the filmmakers didn’t name the location Black Water just so the title could have the same first initials as Blair Witch.
The “new” elements in “Black Water Vampire” have to do with a quartet of murders, each separated by exactly ten years, in which a woman went missing on the December 21st winter solstice and was subsequently found naked, drained of blood, and with a bite wound on her corpse’s throat. It is not specifically mentioned if conveniently virginal filmmaker Danielle is intentionally going into the same woods on December 21st, exactly ten years since the last murder. But unlucky coincidence of ill timing or not, this of course predetermines her trek for disaster.
There is also a side story about a loony serial killer serving a death sentence after confessing to and being convicted of the vampiric crimes. Other than giving Bill Oberst Jr. a chance to chew up his single scene and spit it out with his trademark psycho stare, the subplot offers nothing as a meaningful red herring. Assuming his character has an age similar to Oberst’s real one, the killer would have been about seven-years-old at the time of the first murder in 1972. On top of that, the movie’s title already solves the mystery of how the victims died, so there is no clear indication about what this diversion adds to the tale.
Unless it is meant to motivate a shameless callback to another lauded contemporary classic. As serial killer Raymond Banks’ notoriety grew in Black Water, so did the stories used to scare small children. Out of this urban legend was born the insipid nursery rhyme, “1-2-3, Banks is coming for me. 3-4-5, he’ll skin me alive.”
First, that is as useless as a counting rhyme can possibly be, seeing as how the number three is repeated twice. Second, none of the victims were skinned. Though I don’t recall a crucifix being good for anything against Freddy Krueger either, so maybe the factual inaccuracy can slide. Since those two lines constitute the only couplet in the Black Water rhyme, there is no telling for sure how much dumbness could have been added to a more complete version of the unoriginal poem.
“Black Water Vampire” could have paused there with its trite tributes to better movies. But the groan-inducing moments continue when a pale and dazed young girl coldly delivers the line, “we’re gonna die out here” as though possessed by something evil. Had she proceeded to then pee on the floor, it would not have been a surprise. Completing the quadfecta of insulting homage is a climax so brazen in its aping of “Rosemary’s Baby” that the film ends on an impression that everything offered is a patchwork quilt stitched from other people’s ideas, and obvious ones at that.
“Black Water Vampire” makes little sense as “found footage.” A supposedly professional cameraman is hired for the shoot, but when he first encounters a strange figure standing still in the night, he can’t put the shape into focus or figure out how to point his light at anything above the object’s feet. The sound mixer goes missing and the director bemoans not being able to record professional audio, but everything sounds perfectly fine.
Then there are the inexplicable instances, such as when the group is shouldering the wounded and fleeing for their lives, when someone decides to hike ahead and film the others walking towards him/her. Toss in cuts coming from a second camera that no one in the foursome appears to be holding, a vampire attacking in broad daylight, and miscellaneous details like inconsistent spelling of one character’s name (Mayers vs. Meyers), and there is a sense that realistic fantasy does not matter to a production that just wants to get it in the can and go home.
Credit goes to “Black Water Vampire” for two things. One is for actually naming a modern day character Millicent. The other is for filming the movie in the snow. It takes some level of effort and dedication to willingly shoot outdoors in temperatures cold enough for ice, and to put two naked actresses in those same conditions to boot.
In a world where “The Blair Witch Project” never existed, and neither did the scores of imitators, imposters, and honest homage progeny that have cropped up since, “Black Water Vampire” might pass as a tolerable, albeit cheesy, bite of hokey horror entertainment. However, those other movies do exist. And that means “Black Water Vampire” has to do more than merely mimic so much of what has come before, particularly to have any chance at being heard in a space crowded by countless loud voices. When half-hearted threads about vampires, serial murders, cults, and solstice events only exacerbate the messiness, there isn’t any chance at all.
Review Score: 40