Do you not fear your insignificance?
Mankind found a way to overpower its Gods in Tom Paton‘s throwback sci-fi horror Black Site. After discovering that Elder Gods were in-hiding and draining our planet of its most precious resource (people) for millennia, humanity found ancient incantations to bind them and ultimately deport them back from whence they came with no chance of return. It’s the type of knowledge that could disenfranchise the masses with proof of our “creators” being nothing more than a malignant species from far away that craves our souls as food. So those in the know reinforce the lie by building so-called “black sites” with the off-grid capability of facilitating the incarceration and expulsion of these nightmare fuel Lovecraftian monsters. And right now one is preparing to do exactly that.
One man’s enemy is another’s salvation, though. If enough people see Elder Gods as their makers, they’ll surely sacrifice themselves if asked. So when the vicious Erebus (Kris Johnson) is finally captured two decades after killing a black site soldier and his wife, holding him for tortuous interrogation methods won’t be easy. Because while the skeleton crew of Earth’s protectors who’ve stayed onboard despite few Elder Gods remaining secure him, you can bet he has followers readying to do whatever is necessary to win his freedom. Eventually a battle commences between Erebus’ lieutenant Ker (Phoebe Robinson-Galvin) and her army of cultists opposite the surviving daughter of his wrath (Samantha Schnitzler‘s Ren Reid) and the deportation specialist just arrived to send him on his way (Mike Beckingham Sam).
The plot is therefore a simple race against time with Ker and Ren pursuing the same goal: find Erebus behind a maze of electronic light field barriers. A wrinkle exists to make things more interesting too as an invisible bond was formed between captive and jailer. Ren saw Erebus’ true form when he murdered her parents and thus found herself connected to him psychologically with cryptic visions of space, love, and desperation. The seizure-like fits this has long provided are why her promotion to active duty within the black site her father guarded hasn’t occurred. They’re now amplified due to his proximity. Do they reveal the past, present, and/or future? And can Ren fight through their debilitating impact to be a one-woman wrecking crew against Ker’s hostile force?
There’s a good amount of action with an abundance of deaths, but Black Site is for the most part a dialogue-driven existential enterprise with its God consistently mocking humanity’s insignificance as mankind reminds him of all its done to steal everything he’s loved with a smirk. This is super-ego versus super-ego locked in a tiny room with equal odds of salvation or destruction pounding on the door. Jennifer Wilkinson (Angela Dixon) and Jay Austin (Bentley Kalu) do their best to match Erebus’s cocky confidence despite the whole lot of them fearing the worst. Paton has a few tricks up his sleeve as far as what their respective “worst” is while allowing fate to ensure Ren will arrive before the night is over. Towards what goal, however, remains unknown.
It’s a low-budget thriller with effective production design and special effects rendering the serviceable acting a bit of a sore thumb yet never distracting enough to check out. The message surrounding our power as a species to rise together united against evil—no matter where that evil originates—shines through instead alongside the corruptible hubris that risks to consume us because of the selfish desires of individuals unwilling to open their eyes to the bigger picture. We strive so hard to mold ourselves in the image of a God we can’t truly call benevolent considering the breadth of evidence history has supplied to the contrary. So looking upon current righteous Christians, Muslim zealots, et al. only begs the question: why wouldn’t an expunction of Gods be justified?
A lot of assumptions are made with emotions running high. Some characters intentionally act to create these false notions of their motivations while others are forced into proving they’re wrong. This is where Paton’s film excels thanks to Ren constantly moving forward with a chip on her shoulder while Erebus relishes his ability to provoke. Watching these two working with fists or words alone allows us to understand where they’re coming from and to recognize the similar paths they’ve taken for vengeance. Their bloodlust placed them on this collision course, but their capacity for love is what can literally and figuratively free them. Only once they’re willing to place another ahead of themselves are they finally able to break the metaphorical chains binding them with rage.
The visual aesthetic and synth score will give those of you who’ve seen The Void déjà vu, but comparisons end at the superficial. Black Site is more actioner than horror, it’s propulsion hinged upon hand-to-hand combat (guns are worthless because fire is impossible within the borders of this secret facility) rather than dread. The mystery is less about what is happening than how it will all conclude; the journey therefore supplying more entertainment value than answers with the latter saved until the very end. It’s only then that everything will make sense, a trajectory steeped in destiny revealing itself as more proof that God’s so-called plans have always utilized men as pawns. Those lucky enough to survive do so with help of their friends, not Him.