Sunday, January 15, 2017

Black River (2001)

Black River (2001)
Director: Jeff Bleckner
Starring: Jay Mohr, Lisa Edelstein, Ann Cusack
Format: DVD

Plot: A writer visits a town that isn't what it appears to be.

In the 80s and 90s two people stood at the top of the mainstream world of horror fiction - Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I'm a dedicated King fan, having read all of his books and watched all the movie adaptions. On the other hand I've read only a few Koontz novels and seen maybe two or three film versions. I'd never heard of Black River (based on a Koontz short story of the same name) until stumbling across this DVD for $2 at Half Price Books, but the plot summary sounded intriguing and I like Jay Mohr, so I decided to give it a go.

The first thing to know about Black River is that it's a TV movie (originally aired as a mini-series I believe) so it has all the shortcomings of the format - no gore, no T&A, broadly-stereotyped and shallow characters etc. The second thing is that it's not a horror movie. The best way to describe it is as an extra-long episode of The Twilight Zone. If you're at all a fan of that show (original or 80s version) you'll pick the "twist" right away, I know I did.

Jay Mohr (CHERRY FALLS) is a likeable protagonist, a recently-divorced novelist (Koontz and King sure do like basing their stories around what they know) named Bo. Escaping the LA rat race, he finds himself in an idyllic small town. One that he can't escape no matter how hard he tries. Lisa Edelstein (three years before her key role in TV's HOUSE) is his love interest and John and Joan's sister Ann Cusack is a quirky waitress.

As mentioned the plot is entirely predictable. As a half-hour TV episode this may have worked, but as a feature-length presentation it ultimately fails. This is no fault of the cast or the director (handcuffed by the format no doubt), the story is just... blah. There are a couple of moments of unintentional humour (a garden hose inexplicably coming to life by itself) but for the most part things just plod along until the expected finale.

I'd recommend skipping this unless you're a Koontz completist or a huge fan of Jay Mohr. Even then you'd be better off searching out Mohr's better work, like the aforementioned Cherry Falls or his underrated TV sitcom Gary Unmarried.

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