“It’s just another fond memory of country living.”
— Noel Henson (Matthew McCaull) in Black Fly.
Black Fly, an intense psychological thriller from Canada, tells the story of two brothers.
On an isolated island, Noel Henson (Matthew McCaull) lives on the farm that was once owned by his parents. He has a mullet, he loves his dog, and he ends each workday with a cold beer. And maybe it’s because I’ve got plenty of country in my background as well but, as soon as I saw him, I immediately recognized Noel’s type. He’s outwardly friendly but definitely prefers to have space of his own, the type who likes to live by his own rules and will probably never forgive you if you break one of them. You would definitely want to help build your house but you might not necessarily invite him to come inside of it afterward.
Noel’s younger brother is Jake (Dakota Daulby). Maybe because I’ve always had a weakness for sensitive and artistic loners, I felt that I immediately knew Jake’s type as well. He’s the guy who has been let down one too many times by everyone around him. He’s got a sketchbook full of drawings of monsters and fantasy girlfriends. When it comes to someone like Jake, you’re torn between feeling sorry for him and fearing what will happen if he ever truly loses control of his anger. When we first meet Jake, he is escaping from his abusive uncle. When he shows up at the island, Noel is there to greet him. It’s been years since the two brothers were together but it quickly becomes obvious that Jake idolizes Noel.
At first, everything appears to be perfect between Jake and Noel but slowly, cracks start to appear. Jake and Noel’s childhood was hardly ideal. Their abusive father was shot while hunting. Their mother committed suicide. Noel is overly possessive of his girlfriend, Paula (Christie Burke), and she appears to have some secrets of her own. A violent motorcycle gang has recently shown up on the island and is trying to intimidate Noel into leaving his home.
And, of course, one of the brothers is a murderer.
Now, I’m not going to tell you which brother is a murderer. One of the best things about Black Fly is that, up until we witness the film’s first murder, we are kept guessing as to which brother will turn out to be the murderous one. At first, it’s easy to imagine either one of the two brothers turning out to be a murderer. Both McCaull and Daulby give totally believable and authentic performances. At first, they’re both likable but, as the film progresses, we get small clues of trouble underneath the surface. And those small clues become bigger and bigger until the violence finally explodes on-screen.
Black Fly was written and directed by filmmaker Jason Bourque. That name should be familiar to our regular readers because he previously wrote the script for End of the World, a film that I enjoyed so much that, two years after it originally aired, I’m still taking advantage of any excuse to link to my review of it. Bourque’s direction of Black Fly is atmospheric and suspenseful, making great use of some truly desolate locations. Whether it’s the trailer park that Jake flees at the start of the film or the dilapidated farm that Noel calls home, the locations in Black Fly are just as important as the characters, with the decay of the island neatly mirroring the decay of Noel and Jake’s relationship. As the film reaches its violent conclusion, Bourque’s direction keeps the audiences off-balance and throws us straight into the tension-filled world of the characters.
Based on a true story, Black Fly is a potent and visceral look at guilt, violence, and family secrets. It will be having its U.S. premiere at the Arizona Underground Film Festival on September 25th, followed by two showings at the San Diego Film Festival on October 1st and October 3rd.