Lusciously filmed, this unconventional tale of demonic possession and ancient spirits is full of atmosphere and brooding melancholy.
Aarya (writer-director K / XI) has come to her aunt’s remote cottage to gather her thoughts and get her painting mojo back. Her auntie (Aditi Bajpai) has left her a gift: a beautiful red scarf purchased in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the garment appears to be possessed by a Churail, an Asian witch, and Aarya attempts to find out more about the spirit before it consumes her.
This is undoubtedly K / Xi’s film. As well as being in front of the camera for the majority of the runtime, she did a hell of a lot of work behind the scenes too. Many of the shots are tightly framed, heightening the claustrophobic atmosphere. Many of the images in the film could easily be framed as art in themselves. There’s very little dialogue, particularly in the last half of the movie, with the visuals complemented by the music (by BurningTapes). This intensifies the otherworldly quality and is thoroughly absorbing. As in a lot of Asian horror, hair plays a big part here, although this doesn’t go the Sadako route, in fact, it’s often much more terrifying thanks to the restraint shown not to rely on jump scares or freaky imagery.
K / Xi is clearly genre-savvy and the influence of the likes of David Lynch is clear, and this inspiration is given a nod and a wink with the choice of T-shirts the character wears. Scenes of intense colour have a Suspiria-like surrealness. Black Lake is a bold, confident, highly effective film that will appeal as much to an arthouse audience as it will to discerning horror fans. In terms of the rather niche possessed garment subgenre, it’s more In Fabric than Slaxx, and has a much stronger voice than both. K / Xi proves to be a powerful director who we’ll have our eyes on in the future.
Where to watch: Prime Video