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'Black River' appears, at first glance, to have all the nescessary ingredients for a bad horror movie. In fact it turns out to be quite watchable sort of Night-Gallery-ish mystery/SF hybrid.
Put it this way, I didn't figure it out in the first 5 minutes. There is enough mystery and strangeness to keep you interested, even though you get the sensation that you've seen this movie several times before on Ray Bradbury's mystery theatre or something.
Based on a Dean Koontz novella(?), a disillusioned writer leaves LA in search of somewhere to put down roots, and ends up by accident in a small town called Black River, which looks like it's probably in coastal Oregon or northern California. Only trouble is, he can't leave. Every attempt to depart is foiled by some unlikely set of events; many of the locals are just a bit weird, there's a mysterious black van following him around, and so on. Something very strange is going on. Is it supernatural, a government conspiracy, or what?
I won't give it away, though to be honest I didn't think the ending was very credible at all, and rather let the film down.
The acting and production values are better than you might expect. What really keeps the movie in the mid-range, score-wise, is a blandness in the direction. There are times when some spooky atmosphere would have been desired, but the thing unfolds in a workmanlike manner, with not a lot in the way of atmosphere.
There is one thing I want to know, though: at the start of the movie, while still in LA, he is looking for a place to bury his beloved golden retriever. Now, in Black River, a dog keeps turning up who is the spitting image of his old pooch (Koontz has a thing for Golden Retrievers I take it, as there was one in Watchers as well). The thing is, you get the feeling the dog is on his side, and at other time that it's part of the 'conspiracy'. Thinking about it logically, I don't see any way that the latter could be true, though this is eventually implied.
Little things like that bother me. Thankfully though, there were no big things that bothered me about the movie. Quite watchable, but perhaps I'd have been disappointed if it were an overnight rental.
A solid 6 out of 10.
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