Still haunted by the murder of her parents two decades before by a vengeful Elder God, Ren Reid (Samantha Schnitzler) is an agent at the Artemis Black Site, a secret underground military base where captured gods are ‘deported’, banished back to the Hell dimension they came from.

When Erebus (Kris Johnson), the god responsible for her parents’ death, is captured and brought to Artemis for interrogation and deportation, Ren finds herself locked in a desperate fight for survival, and for her own sanity, as his zealous followers attack the base intent on stopping his banishment.

With the installation under lockdown and time running out, Ren must battle her way through an army of Elder God worshippers in order to avenge her parents and send Erebus back to Hell…

A supernatural action movie selling itself as H.P. Lovecraft meets The Raid, there’s so much of John Carpenter’s DNA all over writer/director Tom Paton’s Black Site that the film could probably sue for child support. Riffing on Assault On Precinct 13, Escape From New York and Prince Of Darkness, Paton posits a world where a secret military agency battles a race of murderous ancient Eldritch gods roaming the Earth, jumping from human host to human host, as they try to…well, do something or other.

While Paton spends pretty much the first third of the film setting up his universe, he’s never quite clear on why exactly the Elder Gods, glimpsed briefly in their true form as Cthulhu-like monsters only in nightmare flashes, are such a threat to the world. Forced to hide, it seems, inside middling English actors who’ve escaped from a football hooligan film, these Elder Gods don’t seem to have done anything to warrant being captured and kicked off the planet, other than kill the heroine’s parents when she’s a child and, to be fair, her parents were members of the black ops team hunting down and banishing the gods to another dimension.

So the stakes are pretty low and while Kris Johnson’s Poundland Mephistopheles trades tough guy talk with his captors like “The foot doesn’t make friends with the dog shit it steps in!” it’s hard to take his Hannibal Lecter impersonation too seriously. Far more satisfying are Samantha Schnitzler and Mike Beckingham’s odd couple heroes and stunt performer-turned-actress Phoebe Robinson-Galvin’s sword-wielding villain.

Suitably tough and vulnerable as the haunted Ren, Schnitzler makes the most of her paint-by-numbers part, bringing both a wiry physicality to her fight scenes and a wry playfulness to her banter with Beckingham’s geeky everyman Sam, a lovelorn, recently dumped loser employed merely for his ability to remember the ancient incantations that banish the Elders from our world. When Beckingham comments that “The hero is supposed to get the girl…” her weary retort “Dude, you’re the sidekick!” is a welcome pause between under-lit fight scenes. Equally good is Robinson-Galvin’s scary, one-eyed Ker, a 21stcentury Valkyrie hacking her way through the base’s security force with dual katanas to get to Erebus, the sorcery that protects the base (and the limitations of Paton’s low-budget) precluding the use of firearms.

Paton’s fight scenes may lack the hyperkineticism of The Raid, but Black Site is a fun, unpretentious sci-fi/horror mash-up that proves, after Pandorica and Redwood, that Paton is a young British genre filmmaker worth watching out for. Somebody please give him the budget to afford to film in more than one underground corridor at a time!

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Black Site
3.0Overall Score
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