BLACK APRIL by WILLIAM STANCIK

Directed by William Stancik/ Reviewed by Adva Reichman

What do you imagine when I ask you to think about a film that combines a frightening old murder mystery, a troubled priest, a travelling carnival and a locust plague? If you are like me, I would assume your imagination is running wild right now, so in order to satisfy it, let me introduce you to ‘Black April’.

‘Black April’ will pull you in various directions, constantly mislead you and make you squirm in your seat. The short film, directed by William Stancik, begins with a young man who decides to return and visit his old crime scene – the place he almost lost his life at the age of 12 years old. As he observes the open space, drowning in his memories, he meets the eccentric land owner. What begins as a threatening conversation quickly changes, and we learn that the young man, played by J Gabriel Wagner, was stabbed on that land along with his sister and other women. The young man was the only one to survive that horrendous attack. The murderer was never found.

The land owner, played by Joe Zumba, is a peculiar strange man who was also affected by the events of that night. As the two discuss, the land owner invites the young man into his home.

Apparently the town’s people suspected that the land owner’s brother was behind the murders and hung him. By the time someone decided that that wasn’t an acceptable course of action and released him, it was too late. The brother survived, but the lack of oxygen left him with a severe brain injury. If that wasn’t enough, the brother had a son who is also brain damaged and the land owner found himself caring for both.

As the young man arrives at the house, we realize the extent of the land owner’s relatives’ condition. We gradually begin to suspect one of them is behind the murders, but the young man is casually relaxed and even though he notices the odd behavior, he doesn’t seem too troubled by it.

As he finally leaves, and we can breathe again, a cloud of locust forces him to go back and find a shelter himself in the house. In order to know where that decision led him too, you’ll have to watch the film…

The short film feels experimental at times and the excessive use of green screen gives it an extremely surreal look and feel. Combined with the characters’ otherness and radical behaviors, you get a fun quirky film that will keep you on your toes.

I enjoyed seeing how the director explored and played with the different elements the genre offers. Watching the choices Stancik made, while presenting the characters and their world, was satisfying and unique.

Some elements in the actors’ performances did distract me at first, but by the end of the film it all came together and served it well. This film, from the very beginning to the very end, was entertaining, distinctive and amusing.

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