VIFF Review: Black Fly

When writer-director Jason Bourque was a boy, his family moved to St. John, New Brunswick. The move to a rural area was meant to be a peaceful one, but as it turns out, their new neighbour was a serial killer.

The Bourques didn’t suffer any losses at his hands, but Jason, now based in Vancouver, has turned that experience into a taut thriller called Black Fly.

2014 Vancouver International Film Festival

The story begins with Jake running away from his home. He lives with his uncle due to a tragic past: his father died in a hunting accident, and his mother later committed suicide. Jake is reunited with his older brother Noel for the first time in years, and at first, it seems like everything will be okay. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that Noel is a psychopath –and more than a little paranoid– and as a local biker gang becomes more prominent on the isolated island where they live, things go … a little crazy.

Black Fly is a thriller with more than a bit of gun violence, but what makes it stand out for me is that rather than focusing on the blood, guts, and gore of the latter half of the story, it focuses on the emotional trauma of what’s going on and the difficult decisions that Jake has to make: stick by his psychopath bother or do the right thing and stand against him.

This might be the byproduct of the film’s minimal budget, but at the end of the day, I think this turned out for the best and speaking of which, for a film with such a low budget, it does look great.

The film does have some issues for me, the main one being a few things were pretty predictable, but these are very much overshadowed by the performances, particularly that of Matthew MacCaull as Noel. He disappears into the character and is genuinely menacing, especially in scenes where he’s just sharing a beer with someone asking him questions.

Black Fly had its premiere at VIFF this week, and there are no more showings in the remainder of the festival, but when it gets a release either in theatres or on TV (it’s likely to show up on Super Channel here in Canada in the next while), you should check it out.