We were pretty impressed with the previous films from Ghost Dog Films The Singing Bird Will Come (2015) and Crucible of the Vampire (2019). Writer/director Iain Ross-McNamee managed to make low budget indie films that were both atmospheric and entertaining. The latest project from the studio sees the director venture into new territory - the choose-your-own-adventure film. Taking the lead from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, I Saw Black Clouds allows you to dictate the direction of the story. Available on the Steam platform, it’s a bold move that pays off.
Following the suicide of her friend, Kristina (Nicole O’Neill) attempts to find out more about why Emily (Carla Cresswell) would kill herself. Along the way, she uncovers secrets about the institution where Emily was committed and is pursued by the ghost that may have haunted her friend to the grave.
What happens to the characters is down to the viewer, though. We’ve ‘played’ the film-game for over four hours and have only uncovered two out of the four endings. Take Kristina the wrong way, and you could be scolded by Emily for failing her. A different choice could introduce a whole new subplot and characters. Ross-McNamee has really been brave with this mammoth undertaking. For those who enjoy psychological indie films, it’s a treat. The acting is engrossing, and it’s beautifully shot. The jumps between some of the choices (particularly if there’s music in the background) are less than seamless, but it’s a small niggle that you get used to after a while.
As a gimmick, the conceit works well since the story deviates so much with the different choices (there’s an option to skip the scenes you’ve viewed if you don’t fancy re-watching it as a full film, although that defeats the purpose to us film fans). Stats are available to see how compassionate our choices are, amongst other things, which adds an additional level of interest. We can’t see the average Steam-player getting much out of it, though.
We’d be interested to see the definitive story played out as a ‘proper’ film as what we get in this version is captivating and disturbing in equal measures. In the meantime, we’ll be heading back in to search for those other endings.
You can check I Saw Black Clouds out on Steam.