Hanson’s psychological thriller/horror has a lot going for it. For one, answers won’t be revealed until the film’s end, but every clue leading to Jonathan’s discovery is intriguing, nonetheless. The way in which Hanson reveals answers brings the best elements of horror with nonstop entertainment and a fascinating contrast using the exploration of mental health. There are copious amounts of blood, subtle jump scares, and scenes that will generate some squirms. But these features only enhance an already entertaining script, borrowing from the likes of psychological horrors like Shutter Island (Scorsese, 2010), where audiences are left to question the reality of what they’re witnessing onscreen. Within the script, things could have easily gone astray to the unusual, unexplained, and ridiculous, but there’s a sense of urgency in grounding the film that audiences will appreciate despite the story taking ambitious and sinister turns. But with these foundations in place, it’s easy to appreciate the accomplishments regarding reality vs. imagination.
“…answers won’t be revealed until the film’s end, but every clue leading to Jonathan’s discovery is intriguing…”
Frankie Muniz, best known for playing the titular character in Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle, gives a standout performance in The Black String as Jonathan. With his close-to-perfect performance alone, it’s difficult to determine if what he’s experiencing is real. But that’s the beauty in Muniz’s representation of a guy looking for answers before his life is seemingly claimed by the underworld. Elevating this script from a derivative and simple one is no easy task, but Muniz does it effortlessly.
At the peak of the film’s intrigue lies a captivating story of a guy who just might be going insane to relieve himself of life’s burdens. Jonathan doesn’t know what he wants, nor can he form proper relationships with people to help him discover who he is. Sure, there’s his coworker Eric (played by Blake Webb), who conveniently takes advantage of their friendship or offers him unsolicited advice whenever he pleases. There are even his caring parents who push him to get a grip on reality and make a future for himself. But for Jonathan, that’s not enough. And what better way to escape than to produce a ridiculous story about witches on the hunt for his blood? With a violent past and issues with mental health and substance abuse, it’s not a farfetched idea that the script plays around with. But what’s more intriguing is how Hanson’s direction brings these concepts together with flashes of the damned minced with specks of reality. Truly, it’s hard to differentiate what’s real or fake for Jonathan. And there’s no doubt in my mind that audiences will enjoy the ride through his potential insanity.