‘A Black Rift Begins to Yawn’ review: Lovecraftian horror is a sensory & auditory experience

A Black Rift Begins to Yawn is a mouthful of a title. It is also an eyeful of a film. Currently available at the Slamdance Film Festival, The plot centers on two women who meet up to mourn the death of a professor from college. They soon discover his strange final notes and an audio tape with unknown signals. Shortly after, their connection to reality begins to unwind. 

That is the extent of story provided by writer-director Matthew Wade’s film. A Black Rift is very much a sensory and auditory experience. This leads to a feeling of detachment from the audience that seems to be intentional on the filmmaker’s part. Wade seems to constantly be keeping the audience at arm’s length as they watch the events unfold.

This is usually a bad idea. One of the hardest and most important parts of storytelling is engaging the audience. A Black Rift seems to do the opposite. Yet, by pushing viewers away, it actually succeeds in drawing them in. People watching get a sense of what Laura (Sara Lynch) and Lara (Saratops McDonald) are going through.

'A Black Rift Begins to Yawn' review: Lovecraftian horror is a sensory & auditory experience

From the opening shot, A Black Rift stands apart from other cosmic horror. Scenes come slowly into focus, tricking the eye before leading to a moment of revelations. The dreamy visuals are bathed in light reds and dark blues. The film will be quiet for long stretches of time with just the occasional comment or narration breaking the silence. What score there is amplifies the atmosphere.

Aesthetically, the film is one of the most impressive of the early year. The lack of story in A Black Rift does impact the story, however. The purposely vague nature of the story makes it almost impossible to feel for the characters. While what is happening is engaging to watch, the characters are never appealing. This makes what seems to be their descents into madness less impactful.

A Black Rift Begins to Yawn is a captivating piece of Lovecraftian storytelling. The movie is beautiful to look at and impossible to turn away from. Scenes fade into each other as every moment sets an eerie tone. The lack of tangible story and deep characters ultimately will make this niche viewing, but fans of cosmic horror should enjoy it.

The Slamdance Film Festival takes place from February 12-25. Virtual tickets can be purchased at the official site.

‘A Black Rift Begins to Yawn’ review: Lovecraftian horror is a sensory & auditory experience