Jonathan is a lonely twenty-something stuck in a dead end job, spending most of his life away from work alone and working through self-help guides for inspiration. One night, he takes a leap and dials a singles hotline, being put in contact with Dena, a one-night stand who will upend his life…and leave behind more than just a memory. Something far darker below the surface of his skin…

It seems through the opening sequences of the film, that The Black String will be something quite straightforward if entertaining and light in tone. Jonathan’s life is upended by an attempt to break out of the monotony of modern single life and now faces a life changing/threatening transformation of the body as a result of this transgression. However, The Black String changes into something completely unexpected; the lightness and bites of humour give way to a turn into trauma and paranoia that is remarkably sobering. Indeed the opening images of Jonathan’s lonely, repetitive lifestyle is given added power and a sense of heartbreaking foreshadowing to his decent into desperation, making the audience both empathise with Jonathan while increasingly question the validity of the seemingly growing supernatural conspiracy around him.

Of course, what truly makes this balance work and drives the success of the film overall is Frankie Muniz himself. His performance as Jonathan is sensational, initially channelling an everyman spirit but evolving into a physically and emotionally demanding drive as Jonathan increasingly spirals further as he attempts to unravel the mystery of his condition. It’s a bewitching complex performance that never strays into excess, either in hysteria or the morose.

The body horror visuals also work fantastically in combination with the more personal and emotive drives of the film; using practical effects to make the monstrous infection tangible and repulsive, particularly the black string imagery itself, to create a contrast and infuse the horror further in that increasingly fluid relationship between reality and fantasy.

At its conclusion, the film delivers one last pull at the thread of emotion that plays as a haunting undercurrent to the tension between reality and fantasy, something the film wonderfully gives no easy answers to either. Committing to this distorted perspective and letting the audience wrestle with the damage to Jonathan and those around him reinforces the sense of heartbreak and how no matter what the truth is, it has no true baring on the real damage and fractured lives left in the wake of the events.

Ultimately, The Black String is a surprising and thoughtful work that morphs what appears initially as a straightforward body horror premise into an emotional journey about the battle with a horror far more scary and impactful than a demon or monster ever could be.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: The Black String
3.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul250190@gmail.com