Director/Screenplay – Evan Tramel, Producers – Jesse Baget & Andrea Monier, Visual Effects – Joseph J. Lawson, Makeup – Alexandria Storm. Production Company – RLJ Entertainment/Ruthless Pictures.
Danielle Lozeau (Danielle Mason), Andrea Monier (Andrea Adams), Anthony Fanelli (Anthony Russell), Robin Steffen (Rob Allen), Bill Oberst Jr. (Raymond Banks), Arthur Roberts (Detective John Miller)
A four-person documentary crew headed by director Danielle Mason head to Blackwater Woods near the town of Fawnskin, WA, to make a documentary about the supposed vampire killings. Once every decade over the last forty years, a woman has been found slaughtered in the woods. A local Raymond Banks has been convicted of the murders and is about to be executed but Danielle believes that Banks is innocent and was railroaded into confessing. Once in the woods however, the film crew become lost and then discover that something sinister is stalking them.
The Found Footage film has become a genre all unto itself during the 2000s. Following the success of The Blair Witch Project (1999) and then exploding an an astronomical way after Paranormal Activity (2007), it has taken over and colonised almost every theme and topic in the horror genre. We have seen – from the serial killer/snuff movie in The Great American Snuff Film (2003), Amateur Porn Star Killer (2007) and sequels and The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007); the monster movie in Incident at Loch Ness (2004), Cloverfield (2008) and The Tunnel (2011); the zombie film in Diary of the Dead (2007) and [Rec] (2007); the ghost story in the Paranormal Activity series, Lake Mungo (2008), Gacy House (2010), Haunted Changi (2010) and Grave Encounters (2011); the alien takeover film in Apollo 18 (2011); the possession/exorcism film in The Last Exorcism (2010), Back from Hell (2011) and The Devil Inside (2012); the ecological catastrophe in The Bay (2012); the Frankenstein film in The Frankenstein Theory (2013) and Frankenstein’s Army (2013); the Satanic pregnancy film in Delivery (2013) and Devil’s Due (2014); the UFO conspiracy film in Area 51 (2015); even an entire anthology of Found Footage horror tales in V/H/S (2012).
Indeed, only a few months before Black Water Vampire came out, there was another Found Footage treatment of the vampire film with the much better Canadian-made Afflicted (2013) and the subsequent Living Among Us (2018). The idea was also played for comedy with hilarious results in the New Zealand film What We Do in the Shadows (2014), although before all of these there had been the British Vampire Diary (2006).
Black Water Vampire quickly and unimaginatively follows the plotline used by several other of these films Found Footage films – most notably, the one that started them all off, The Blair Witch Project, and the recent likes of The Frankenstein Theory and the Bigfoot film Willow Creek (2013). All of these had a film crew heading out into the wilderness in search of a mythological/supernatural creature. At the outset, this film tries to misdirect and give us the impression that the group are searching for evidence to absolve a convicted killer who is about to be executed before it morphs into a vampire film – but even then the title surely gives away the main surprise.
Once it gets the film crew in the wilds, Black Water Vampire becomes a deprecatingly slavish copy of The Blair Witch Project – strange ritual markings being found all over the campsite, the group lost in the woods and finding they are retracing their path, arguments over the map where you get the impression that the woods themselves seem almost to be shifting their topography, members of the party going missing.
Eventually, the film pulls its big surprise as to what is going one – and produces a vampire whose look has been copied from Max Schreck in Nosferatu (1922). This is decidedly disappointing. Like the abovementioned lost in the woods films, the entire plot is a build-up towards the revelation of something. However, it proves frustrating when all that we get is no more than a blurred, single scene appearance of a rat-like vampire. It may be that the Found Footage genre is so limited in terms of plots available to it that films are starting to run out of creativity. A much more conceptually challenging film would have used this as a beginning point and told about what happens after that. Afflicted, which offered up a found Footage film following someone as they transform into a vampire, was a much more thought-provoking entry. There is also a lame Rosemary’s Baby (1968)-like ending that reveals the fate of the girls.
Evan Tramel made his directorial debut here and has subsequently gone on to make a series of animated films for children.