By JERRY JENAE SAMPSON
Starring Aspen Kennedy Wilson and Ashley Whelan
Directed by Andre Alfa
Written by Stephen George
Horror has always been an incredible tool to address social and cultural injustices. This makes it all the more disappointing when a film is released that seems to want clout for taking on these social injustices without taking the time to develop a fully formed story or create well-rounded characters. BLACKSTOCK BONEYARD opens in the distant past with the trial of the Griffin Brothers, two young Black men accused of murder. They are quickly found guilty and sentenced to death by electrocution. The scene that shows the account of their crimes is indicting, an exact recollection of what the men are accused of, so the viewer can only assume that they are guilty. This scene is repeated later in the film, doubling down on the story, with only a brief alternative account shown as an afterthought. Ultimately, the obvious is revealed: the crime was staged as an attempted land grab.
One hundred years later, we are introduced to Lyndsy (Ashley Whelan) and her three friends as they travel to South Carolina after Lyndsy received word she inherited land from an unknown ancestor. It’s pretty easy to guess what follows – there’s an evil mayor, a conniving attorney, several white supremacists, and two young black men who take the brunt of the violence in what is ultimately a poorly plotted story line. The attorney and mayor urge Lyndsy to sign her land over to a third party in exchange for a great deal of money, and her choice to do so awakens the ghosts of the Griffin Brothers, hell-bent on exacting revenge on the descendants of those responsible for their death.
The frustrating thing about BLACKSTOCK BONEYARD is that the audience spends too much time with the racist members of this community, witnessing their violence and being forced to listen to their trope-laden dialogue. The amount of time spent watching this violence is uncomfortable and doesn’t contribute to the story, and these scenes are really just setup for the vengeance portion of the film. But the viewer doesn’t need to see such extended acts of cruelty to know that the racists are the bad guys, and despite the assumed justice being inflicted on the offending parties, it would have been better to have spent time with the heroes of the story, like Jesse (Aspen Kennedy Wilson), an ancestor of the Griffin Brothers, who could have been centralized in the narrative instead of the white supremacists.
In addition to the limited character development, the ghosts of the Griffin Brothers don’t seem to have any real compass directing their rage. They indiscriminately murder Lyndsy’s friends, even though they have nothing to do with the injustice done to the brothers. And while the hulking, masked figures are compelling monsters, it is difficult to tell them apart and their methods of killing people are largely off-screen and riddled with atrocious CGI effects. BLACKSTOCK BONEYARD claims to be based on a true story that has never been told before, but there are far too many familiar elements done in a haphazard way for the film to feel fresh.
There is an interesting concept hidden amidst the under-cooked script and cliché characters, but BLACKSTOCK BONEYARD never fully realizes the potential within the exploration of ancestral trauma and racial injustice.
BLACKSTOCK BONEYARD is now available to stream from Uncork’d Entertainment.