Writer-director John Pata’s Black Mold is a horror film – but it’s also a meditation on the trauma that we carry with us. The film is a character piece where we get to understand the characters and peel away at their present to discover what they have hidden from their past.
Agnes Albright and Andrew Bailes are Brooke and Tanner, photographers who are on a mission to (illegally) photograph derelict buildings. The pair come with ball-busting CJ (Caito Aase), a snarky driver who is always ready to roll if a quick getaway is needed. Their final stop is an abandoned military facility that requires a little more time than usual. Dropped off by CJ, Brooke and Tanner go about their business. However, once deep within the building, they stumble across a homeless man (Jeremy Holm). Paranoid to the extreme, the man attacks the pair and takes them hostage. However, the secrets within the building’s past soon begin to affect Brooke and the traumatic death of her father begins to bubble to the surface as the trio begin to turn on each other.
Anchored by an excellent performance from Agnes Albright, Black Mold has the requisite scares, but it also works exceptionally well as a drama. It’s a chamber piece and a character study that uses the physical confines of its location to delve deep into the psyche of the protagonists. Albright might be the lead, but everyone within the small cast impresses by delivering nuanced turns. Confined to real and closed locations, you might think that Black Mold would lack visual dexterity – but the film looks great. Decrepit buildings never looked so beautiful. It has some excellently realised sequences of nightmare horror and one in particular makes me hope that Pata might decide to tackle a werewolf movie one day!
More than just a fright pic, Black Mold is an impressive debut from John Pata. It’s a film that delivers on every level and shows that when it’s done well, the horror genre offers more than scares and gore.
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