REVIEW: The Black Gloves
– By Sooz Webb
It’s refreshing, with cinema frequently oversaturated by jump scares, gross out torture porn and the like, to revisit our genre roots, and rediscover the beauty of horror as art. Gothic Noir thrillers of the 1940’s are a perfect showcase for that, stylishly evoking a sense of dread through music, cinematography and most importantly fantastic storytelling. Simplicity is key, with deceptive abstract suggestions being more frightening than gallons of blood flowing across the screen. Director and writer dream team Lawrie Brewster and Sarah Daly of Hex Media emulate this ethos perfectly, with their stylish supernatural chiller The Black Gloves.
Dr. Finn Galloway is a psychologist looking for answers. Haunted by the memory of a young patient who died while under his charge, he seeks to understand the peculiar visions that once overwhelmed her. Driven by guilt and curiosity, he discovers that she was not alone in her delusions, and tracks down another unfortunate soul who claims to be tormented by the same mysterious figure, known only as The Owlman. His investigations lead him to the secluded and eerie Baldurrock Estate, where the psychologically fragile ballerina Elisa Grey resides with her mysterious and domineering teacher Lorena Velasco. It’s here that the Doctor becomes embroiled in a complex nexus of lust, paranoia, jealousy and misdirection. With sanity and soul at stake, he must work to fight an unfathomable ancient evil to save, not only himself, but the one he loves.
With the desolate isolation of Scottish Highlands as its backdrop, The Black Gloves is a sumptuous and unnerving descent into madness, underpinned by the claustrophobia of self induced segregation. Visually reminiscent of the work of Mario Bava and Salvador Dali, the film’s black and white tones help to enhance the melancholy of the story. Tension is built through the delicate interlocking of intrigue and suspense, a homage to horror heritage, comparable with The Master of Suspense himself. Director Lawrie Brewster has made a conscious choice to steer clear of modern cinema conceptualization, perfectly capturing period style with crisp contemporary clarity. Working in conjunction with Sarah Daly’s script, they seek to consider present day themes such as gender politics in a latter day style, and the result is a bespoke think piece, which stays with you long after the movie is over.
An ensemble cast lead us a merry dance through the complex and compelling mystery. Macarena Gómez’s shrill and sinister ballet mistress brings a necessary level of melodrama to proceedings. Living vicariously through her student, we question if her motives are genuine, or whether her agenda is something altogether more foreboding. As for her harried pupil, Alexandra Hume gives an expressive and emotive performance through sparse dialogue. Bordering at all times on either hesitant or hysterical, she is a fragile ingénue, until a malevolent spirit invades her subconscious. This results in one of the most frantically beguiling dance sequences I’ve ever seen, a stark observation on the delicate precision evil can possess. We witness the bizarre situation unfold through the bewildered eyes of Jamie Scott Gordon’s questioning clinician. Always grasping for answers just beyond his reach, we watch as he comes to terms with the situation, by giving into the madness himself.
A perturbing exploration of romance and psychosis, The Black Gloves eloquently brings folklore to prominence, creating a unique mythology. Sophisticated, tender and terrifying, it’s a lovingly woven billet-doux to cherished pictures of the past.