SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Matthew Wade’s sophomore feature takes a great deal of its storyline from 20th-century horror, fantasy, and science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time, which is where the title A Black Rift Begins to Yawn comes from. Wade incorporates some of the author’s themes of mystical channeling and allusive mirroring and duplicity, as well as following the scary, unknown, and bizarre, to name a few. But it’s not this genre and cult world that draws me to Wade’s filmmaking style.
I truly appreciate that he allows each scene to breathe. He uses the time to let the cinematic journey through sight and sound to create the story and underlying idea to evolve at the moment of contact. A master of the in-camera effects, using filters, color and white balances, and well-crafted lighting technique, Wade shows off his skills before he even starts to edit.
The plot, bare though it is, follows Laura (Sara Lynch) and Lara (Saratops McDonald), friends from college, who come together in a cabin after a professor’s death. While poring over his research and notes, they stumble across audio recordings that once listened to distort their reality. To say more would ruin the immersive experience of that is this film.
Perhaps I tread unknowingly into the world of cosmic horror and fantasy, but my attraction to the filmmaker’s work is his uncanny and unconventional approach to cinema. I find his ability to create experimental movies with haunting and deeply layered imagery and audio, with a clear, decisive design for essentially what is a simple storyline to be truly artistic.
“…they stumble across audio recordings that once listened to distort their reality.”
Wade’s other titles, including Maniac Landscapes, Eyes at the Specter Glass, Plena Stellarum, and How the Sky Will Melt, are approached in a similar fashion. You could say he is an auteur—there really is no one creating work like this. Wade enjoys using a full spectrum of mediums and a well-honed ability for animation and design, including Super 8mm, film scans, computer-generated imagery, magnetic tape, beta (yes, that loud tape from ad agencies in the 1980s), and digital filming throughout his work.
Another influence to A Black Rift Begins to Yawn is The Black Knight satellite conspiracy theory, which claims that a spacecraft is in near-polar orbit of the Earth placed by intelligent extraterrestrial life, and NASA is covering up its existence and origin. Wade had the idea of famous inventors such as Tesla and Edison working together to understand The Black Knight. However, the conspiracy morphed in A Black Rift Begins to Yawn into how the women handle isolation and conspiracy theories. This, unbeknownst to anyone when Wade produced the movie, becomes a real-life, timely metaphor for now. These themes feel right at home when watching A Black Rift Begins to Yawn and give another layer of meaning to the events. The unknown is there, drawing us in; do we fight against it?
Sound designer Jacob Kinch, who has worked with Wade on all his films, created a unique soundscape especially apparent throughout. Along with a cabin and the solar eclipse (this is real footage), the landscape of Idaho brought A Black Rift Begins to Yawn to another dimension allowing Wade to elaborate on his ideas and for them to take their own path. A fascinating story where the audience has just as much info as the characters, Wade’s approach to making the movie is just as intriguing.
The film’s somnambulistic qualities will cause you to lose yourself in sound and image, which is intended. Creating a motion picture that you have probably had no basis on which to compare, Wade’s A Black Rift Begins to Yawn is a quintessential indie film on a micro-budget with an incredible attention to detail.
A Black Rift Begins to Yawn screened at the 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…a quintessential indie film on a micro-budget with an incredible attention to detail."