top of page
  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

The Black Mass Blu-ray Review



Cleopatra Entertainment

Blu-ray Release: February 27, 2024

Video: 2.40:1/1080p/Color

Audio: English LPCM 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: None

Run Time: 80:33

Director: Devanny Pinn


Based on a true story and set over a 24-hour period in Florida during the winter of 1978 during the days leading up to a serial killer’s final, unhinged rampage. (From Cleopatra Entertainment’s official synopsis)


The last decade of low-to-medium budget filmmaking has seen a welcome increase in female and queer filmmakers to the horror and exploitation markets, bringing unique perspectives to genres that are typically male-dominated, not to mention unwelcoming towards female and queer viewers. Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge (2018) and Jennifer Kent’s Nightingale (2018) reframed rape/revenge, Michelle Garza Cervera’s Huesera: The Bone Woman (2022) and Julia Ducournau’s Titane (2021) reframed body horror, and Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street and Nia DaCosta’s Candyman (2021) reframed the slasher movie, all from varyingly feminine points-of-view. Fitting the trend, Devanny Pinn’s The Black Mass (2023) attempts to examine the particularly murky intersection between true crime and horror from the perspective of the female victims, rather than the male serial killer.



Conceptually and from a creative standpoint, this approach is a good idea, not only because the true crimes that this film is based on have been thoroughly covered over the decades, but because recent portrayals have overemphasized the killer’s perspective, turning him (once again) into a grotesque pop culture antihero. There’s a timely metacommentary in the idea. Unfortunately, Pinn hinges the entire experience in his perspective then obscures his identity by shooting him from behind, blurring him in close-up, and darkening his façade. The film also attempts to show his compulsions as grotesque and pitiful, but also accidentally portrays him as an intriguing enigma, unlike Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam (1999), which pays tribute to victims by emphasizing David Berkowitz’ pathetic nature, rather than his predatory behavior. 


Pinn’s intended message (as I understand it) is muddled, but The Black Mass is still a neatly constructed and aesthetically interesting film, especially coming from a first-time director shooting on what I assume is a very low budget. The combination of hyper-saturated colors, obsessively designed sets, and even the occasional stilted dialogue gives off a stage show quality that grinds against the voyeuristic point-of-view shots and extreme close-ups of the killer’s neck and hands. The sense of plush nostalgia in the face of uncomfortable intimacy and savage, prolonged violence is effectively disturbing, even if it doesn’t match the highest highs of Franck Khalfoun’s similarly-themed Maniac (2013) or Gerald Kargl’s transgressive masterpiece Angst (1983).



Pinn was previously known for her acting, having appeared in a number of mostly featured extra roles, but worked her way up to lead in mostly low budget horror and action, including Rolfe Kanefsky’s Party Bus to Hell (2017), Alexander T. Hwang’s Lilith (2018), and Brandon Slagle’s The Dawn (2019), which she also produced. The Black Mass is her debut as actress, producer, co-writer (which she shares with script writers Eric Pereira and Brandon Slagle), and director.



Video

The Black Mass was shot using Red Komodo 6K cameras and is presented here for its physical home media debut in 1080p and 2.40:1. It is, as I already mentioned, a very stylized film that uses a lot of subtle gradations and soft focus, so there’s a lot of room for errors and digital artifacts. Some of the darker shots are arguably too dark, but I’m not sure if this is a compression issue or a problem with the original color timing. The soft edges are pretty tidy, though, and there aren’t many posterization effects or jagged corners, aside from the final sequence of the killer driving into the sunset, which is over-smoothed in a way the rest of the film isn’t. Colors are vivid when necessary and, despite those overly darkened shots, black levels are crisp and clean.


Audio

The Black Mass is presented with uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo sound and has an optional 5.1 track in compressed Dolby Digital 5.1. I only bothered with the uncompressed option for this review. The sound design is meant to stick us in the killer’s headspace, meaning that it is limited and largely composed in post, creating an interesting aural effect, but also making the cleanliness of dialogue uneven (some of the killer’s ADR is especially gritty). Composer Fernando Perdomo’s droning electronic score and the accompanying series of original songs that sound like period-appropriate needle-drops are a dominant element and efficiently support the film’s eerie mix of nostalgia and horror.



Extras

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Photo gallery

  • Bonus trailers – The Ghosts of Monday, The Long Dark Trail, What The Waters Left Behind: Scars, and Lion-Girl.


The images on this page are taken from the BDs and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.

0 comments

Comments


bottom of page