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The Black String Review

October 9, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Black String
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The Black String Review  

The Black String Review

Frankie Muniz– Jonathan
Blake Webb– Eric “The ERC”
Chelsea Edmundson– Dena
Oded Fehr– The Husband (uncredited)
Angie DeGrazia– The Wife
Richard Handley– Dr. Jason Ronaldi
Cullen Douglas– Man in Black
Colby French– Mr. Marsh
Laura Richardson– Mrs. Marsh
Mary K. DeVault– Melinda
Bret Green– Fit Guy Chad
Ravi Patel– Dr. May

Directed by Brian Hanson
Screenplay by Richard Handley and Brian Hanson, based on a story by Andy Warrener

Distributed by Grindstone Entertainment Group and Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Rated R for violence/disturbing images, language throughout, some sexuality, and drug use.
Runtime– 93 minutes

Buy it here or here


The Black String, directed by Brian Hanson and now available on DVD, is a nifty, freaky little low budget horror flick about a troubled young man who believes there are malevolent forces out to get him. It’s probably ten minutes too long, but it features a strong performance from star Frankie Muniz and some truly unsettling atmosphere, especially when Muniz’s character figures out what the hell is really going on.

Muniz is Jonathan, a seemingly aimless, lonely young man who goes through the same routine day after day. He goes to work (he works at a convenience store of some sort), goes home, watches TV, draws cartoons in a little notebook, eats, and, on occasion, goes jogging for some reason. His only friend is his co-worker Eric “the ERC” (Blake Webb), who is the exact opposite of Jonathan; Eric is boisterous, outgoing, and funny. Jonathan seems to be estranged from his parents (his mother calls him several times but he refuses to answer). In desperate need of some fun, Jonathan decides to call a 1-900 number he sees a commercial for on TV and, amazingly, makes a date with a woman named Dena (Chelsea Edmundson). The date is an awkward affair, as Jonathan takes Dena to a diner and neither one eats anything, they just engage in boring small talk. After “dinner,” Dena goes back to Jonathan’s apartment to hang out and, eventually, have sex. The next morning, Dena is gone and Jonathan has a weird, painful, and wet and oozing rash on his hip. Where the hell did that come from? It can’t be an STD, can it?

After a day or two, Jonathan goes to the doctor to find out what the hell is on his hip. The doctor has no idea what it is, but Jonathan is admonished for having unprotected sex with a woman he doesn’t really know anything about. The doctor takes some skin samples, then gives Jonathan some cream to apply to the rash. So Jonathan tries to contact Dena, to see if she knows she has some sort of disease, and heads to the house he picked her up at. Dena isn’t there, though. There’s a husband and wife there, people Jonathan doesn’t recognize (an uncredited Oded Fehr and Angie DeGrazia, who is credited as the Wife), and a strange man in a black hat (Cullen Douglas).

Well, shit. Where the hell is Dena? Who are those people in Dena’s house? And what the hell is that rash on his hip? Jonathan decides to investigate. He heads back to the diner and asks a waitress if she knows who Dena is. She doesn’t. Jonathan then gets a phone call from Eric telling him to meet him at his apartment. So Jonathan goes to Eric’s and is immediately attacked by someone. Eric? An intruder? The next day, Jonathan is arrested by the cops and sent to a psychiatric hospital. The authorities believe that Jonathan broke into Eric’s home and attacked him. Jonathan has no memory of that happening. All he knows is that Eric called him and told him to come over. What the hell is happening?

So then we find out that this isn’t Jonathan’s first stay in the hospital, that he’s had serious mental problems for several years, and that he’s one major incident from being locked up for good. Eric decides not to press charges and Jonathan’s parents (Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, as played by Colby French and Laura Richardson) take him to their home. Mrs. Marsh is excited to have her son back, while Mr. Marsh is weary of his son acting out again. Jonathan doesn’t want to be around his parents as they stress him out, and he really doesn’t need any more stress in his life. He needs to find out what the hell that rash is.

Now, while all of that is going on, Jonathan is also having periodic visions of black liquid pooling on the wall. The liquid kind of looks like oil, but it’s obviously not that. It’s something else, likely something sinister. But what? Does it have something to do with his rash? Is this a hallucination caused by the poison from the rash? Jonathan also starts to have nightmares. Jonathan realizes that he needs to get out of his parents’ house and back to his “regular” life so he can continue his investigation. So that’s what he does, he makes a break for it. His parents go looking for him, along with the authorities. Jonathan is dangerous, or so the thinking goes. He could hurt someone or himself, and no one wants that.

So Jonathan, while dodging his parents and the cops, manages to get back to his apartment, which isn’t as nice as it once was (it’s a fucking shithole now). He gets into an argument with a jock douchebag at a gas station while begging for money (Jonathan left his parents’ house without any money or shoes and eventually steals a bike). Things are not going well at all for him. When he has time to think about Dena and his rash, he decides to go see a psychic to find out if she knows what’s going on (because why not? No one else seems to know anything). While meeting this psychic, Jonathan finds out that his problems are supernatural in nature, and that he will have to fight them with knowledge from a “spiritual defense kit” that she sells him.

I don’t want to say any more about the plot as the movie does contain some twists that are best experienced without knowing much ahead of time. As for the ending, I can’t say that I was surprised by it, but I was saddened by it. I was hoping for a, well, more hopeful ending, but The Black String really isn’t interested in that kind of thing. It’s downbeat and damn proud of it.

The first third of the movie is tension filled and expertly paced. The middle third bogs down a bit as Jonathan tries to figure out what’s happening to him. This is where the movie could stand to lose a few minutes as some parts here drag. We know that Jonathan is in trouble, that there are evil forces working against him, and that no one believes him. We don’t need to be told all of this over and over again. We also don’t need to spend so much time in Jonathan’s shitbag apartment watching him do old drugs and whatnot. At least the last third of the movie mirrors the first third and moves along briskly.

The movie’s special effects are both gross and bizarre. Jonathan’s rash, as it grows and grows as the movie progresses, is just sickening. It’s like wet, melted cheese at times, and that’s fucking disgusting. The stuff that Jonathan tries to pull out of his body is absolutely revolting. The black liquid pool effects are creepy as hell because we never really know what, exactly, they are. Where does that stuff come from? There’s also a very cool looking demon thing that shows up towards the end of the movie that may or may not be real. It appears to be a man-in-a-suit, so that kind of thing is always welcome.

And then there’s the musical score. When it’s instrumental, the movie’s score is terrific. It’s weird, it’s creepy, it will make you nervous. When the soundtrack decides to include some “alternative” sounding rock song, it’s bizarre but not in a good way. It’s out of place. I mean, at the beginning, fine, keep them, but as the movie progresses they shouldn’t be on the soundtrack. They mess with the mood.


The cast is exceptional. Frankie Muniz does a great job as Jonathan. He knows how to make Jonathan sad and pathetic but likeable. He never overdoes it (he’s never annoying, even when he whines about how he can’t deal with his parents, people you do sympathize with because it’s obvious that all they want to do is help him and he can’t see that). He has good awkward chemistry with Chelsea Edmundson’s Dena, which helps make their relationship seem somewhat plausible. Muniz also has good chemistry with Blake Webb, who plays his best friend Eric. You can totally see them hanging out, with Eric bragging about the latest woman he banged over the weekend and Jonathan listening passively because that’s what good friends do. Muniz also knows how to have a meltdown (watch his scene when the cops show up to arrest him a second time. That is an expert flip out). This is easily Muniz’s best horror performance so far, and I’d like to see him tackle other kinds of parts in the genre. I’m actually surprised he hasn’t played a serial killer of some sort like he did on that one episode of Criminal Minds in several movies. What better way to freak out audiences than have a former child star kill people with a chainsaw or something.

Blake Webb has the second biggest part in the movie as Eric. Again, he’s Jonathan’s best friend and a total douchebag, a combination that works and Webb excels at. He’s funny, despite being such an asshole. Ravi Patel, who plays the first doctor Jonathan sees, is probably a close second in the asshole race. He isn’t wrong for admonishing Jonathan for having unprotected sex, but he could have done it in a less douchey way.

Chelsea Edmundson is terrific as Dena. She’s mysterious and sexy. She exists in this area where you know that there’s no way in hell she would ever go on a date with a guy like Jonathan but, at the same time, you buy that she’s doing it this one time. It’s hard to explain why that dichotomy exists without seeing the movie, so you will just have to trust me on this. What happens to her character will depress the fuck out of you.

Richard Handley does an okay job as Dr. Jason Ronaldi, Jonathan’s doctor at the psychiatric hospital. He doesn’t have much of a part to play, but he knows how to project frustration, which is what his character needs to do. God only knows how many times he’s been through this kind of thing with Jonathan.

Cullen Douglas is a super creepy and menacing presence as the Man in Black. You have no idea who or what he is, but when you find out what he wants and why he’s in the story a shiver will travel up and down your spine. He truly is the embodiment of evil.

And then there’s Oded Fehr and Angie DeGrazia as the Husband and the Wife. Much like the Man in Black, they’re pure evil but you don’t know why until the end, and then their presence in the story will freak you out. I would like to know why Fehr isn’t credited in the movie. He’s featured prominently on the back of the DVD and there’s a picture of him on the movie’s official website, but his name is nowhere to be found. Why didn’t he want to be credited with his performance, and, at the same time, why is he all over the movie’s DVD? I don’t get it.

The Black String is a low budget horror flick worth checking out. It has multiple great performances, creepy atmosphere, and a good, unsettling story. Frankie Muniz has a real future in horror if he wants it.

See The Black String. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 1

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None, and that’s a damn shame.

Doobage: A hip and edgy alternative rock song of some sort, jogging, fridge stocking, an old man, cartooning, slow motion skateboarding bullshit, more jogging, barfing, serious luscious ass grabbing, floor moping, a talking commercial, changing out of work clothes at work, a diner date, drawing, illicit smoking, “sex,” a weird hip rash, an embarrassing doctor’s visit, TV watching, a pool of black liquid on the wall, an attempted investigation, a police arrest, a spreading rash, a nose bleed, a big time dinner argument, multiple freak outs, an old doobie, multiple nightmares, forced pill taking, bike stealing, begging for money, psychic bullshit, an explanation, dagger hooey, a black string, a confrontation, a police confrontation, attempted blood taking, an off screen failed drug test, floor washing, a giant vine, attempted chess playing, a hand reaches out of the goo, demon hooey, a very gross special effect, and the possibility of all of this shit happening again with someone else.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Frankie Muniz, Frankie Muniz running, Frankie Muniz stocking a cooler in a convenience store, potential missing money from the register, Frankie Muniz drawing cartoons, some douchebag buying cigarettes and condoms, TV watching, TV dinners, Frankie Muniz saying “Fuck it!,” a young man actually calling himself “the E-R-C-,” an awkward date, small talk, fried chicken, “sex,” Frankie Muniz being yelled at by a doctor, Oded Fehr, a weird woman with tarot cards for some reason, a big time family argument, “Welcome Home” written in ketchup on a plate, plastic utensils, “I’m an alpha male” bullshit, Frankie Muniz somehow inhaling all of the smoke he just exhaled, psychiatric hospital bullshit, a demon, black string, and the possibility of all of this shit happening again with someone else.

Best lines: “Jonathan! Pick up the phone!,” “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Did you just say you were going out with some chick?,” “A phone hot line? Are you fucking me?,” “Hey, hey, hey, take those. You don’t want your dick falling off the first time you pull it out of the attic,” “Let’s go,” “I wouldn’t say that. There’s nothing wrong with being a slut,” “You want to get out of here?,” “You want a drag?,” “Nobody’s ever drawn me before,” “What’s the matter? Are you scared of me, Jonathan? Don’t you like my body?,” “Say I want this to happen. I want this to happen,” “I just didn’t know you could get poison ivy from a vagina,” “You’re smoking weed in the cooler talking about health violations!,” “So I have herpes?,” “Dude, are you fucking with me?,” “Can you tell me why you did this to your friend Eric?,” “Just try to keep it off the upholstery, kiddo,” “Fuck Doctor Ronaldi!,” “It’s not a liquor store, it’s a lifestyle convenience boutique!,” “Hey! No shoes, no service!,” “Show me your rash, Jonathan,” “Stay focused! Stay focused!,” “Witches, man! Witches!,” “You cut your arm open, dude?,” “You’re going to feel a prick,” “This is a level 3 safety circle. It’s protecting me from things you don’t understand,” “Do you have to be so aggressive?,” “I’m not confused. I know exactly what’s going on here,” “Doesn’t matter, Wally. I’m getting the fuck out of here tonight,” and “Do you know why your Mom’s crying?”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Black String is a cool, moody, unsettling low budget horror flick starring Frankie Muniz as a troubled young man who believes sinister forces are out to get him. It’s a little too slow in the middle, but the first and last third are excellent. The way the story plays out isn’t that surprising, but the ride to that conclusion is well worth it. This is Muniz’s best horror performance to date, and I think he has a future in the genre if he wants to pursue one. The movie is on DVD right this second, so track it down and check it out. It’s well worth your time.