Directed by Adam Wimpenny

Starring Ed Stoppard, Greg Wise, Sophia Myles, Paul Kaye, Russell Tovey and Joanna Vanderham
In UK Cinemas August 1st, 2014

by Laura Patricia Jones

On the surface, the supernatural thriller is one of the oldest and simplest genres of film.  In reality, the classic ghost story is one of the hardest styles to master. To be successful, it requires perfectly timed techniques of chill, suspense, twist and believability; a surprisingly complex concoction for contemporary filmmakers competing against the modern blockbuster. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the once flourishing genre appears to have dwindled from our screens in recent years. Adam Wimpenny’s Blackwood fills this void – the script is clever, the plot enticing and the cinematography seamless as it solidly builds the foundations of the classic British ghost story.

Blackwood is a story about a family that should no longer be together, driven by a protagonist that simply will not let go of his drowning relationship. Post recovery from a shattering emotional breakdown, college professor Ben Marshall relocates from the stressful world of Oxford academia to the countryside with his wife and young son, in search of a fresh start. With a new department to join and a new house to call their own, things finally look to be settling down. Soon after moving in, he begins to feel that all is not right with the house. Plagued by spectral visions, Ben cannot rest until he finds the answers behind a local mystery that appears to be putting further strain on his relationship, and the lives of his family in danger.

As with the traditions of the classic haunted house movie, the house itself becomes a character in its own right, the enemy that we as the audience believe the protagonists need to escape from. However, it is the twist in Blackwood that makes this story different.  It makes for a difficult watch as you feel yourself drawing both sympathy and resent for all of the characters involved. Blackwood is essentially so much more than the classic ghost story, it is a story about relationships and how they break us down and drive us to the edge.

It would be very easy for this type of film to end up in the melodramatic camp, but the casting is spot on with natural performances from Ed Stoppard and Sophia Myles as Ben and Rachel Marshall, making the flaws of their relationship and the strains upon them feel authentic. Stoppard manages to combine the dapper, charismatic, eye-wandering flawed professor with the mental complexities of a breakdown sufferer. Myles holds her own to demonstrate the difficulties of Rachel’s situation without playing the victim card. This is supported by an eerie and uneasy performance by Russell Tovey as Jack, and the natural innocence from child actor Isaac Andrews who doesn’t seem to be about to pull a Macaulay Culkin bratfest on us anytime soon.

In short, Blackwood is a film that should be seen.  It is the product of homegrown British film-making talent and is a rare gift in an age where special effects often take priority over a good script.

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