The new film Black Noise mixes Havana Syndrome lore with Predator-style pyrotechnics to create a relatively satisfying action film. Havana Syndrome is a euphemism for an incident of the disabling of U.S. diplomats in Cuba with concentrated, targeted microwaves. The diplomats reported screeching headaches from a sinister unseen source. Black Noise goes one step further, the sound producing hallucinations of past regrets, lost lovers, and tragic secrets.
The Predator reference is to the Arnold Schwarzenegger original, not the sequels. Black Noise is the sort of movie Ah-nold could make in his sleep in the '80s, defining macho ethos in military gear, in everything from The Terminator to Commando. Black Noise uses his Predator as a template, transplanting the hunting of an extraterrestrial villain from a jungle scenario to a luxurious yet mysteriously deserted beach resort.
Black Noise stars British actor Alex Pettyfer as a low-browed, square-jawed hero amongst other square-jawed heroes and formidable women whose hair is pulled tightly back. You'll recognize Pettyfer from films like Magic Mike, Everlasting Love, and Elvis and Nixon. Here, he plays the stoic, brooding member of a special forces team recruited to go to the island and find out just what the hell is going on. Wayne Gordon as the leader, Jason Rathbone as a hipster gunman, Eve Mauro, and Sadie Newman round out the cast.
The film is directed by Phillippe Martinez, who's known for Wake of Death with Jean Claude Van Damme, Modigliani with Andy Garcia, and Land of the Blind with Ralph Fiennes and Donald Sutherland. Mr. Martinez has recently become prolific as a director of a slew of titles that go directly to VOD.
Black Noise's production values are strictly hang-around-the-house, staying put in the resort's buildings and beach after establishing that area as the base. The resort in this case doesn't seem so much deserted as not open for business yet. Once dispatched, each member of the troupe is, in true genre fashion, picked off until only one is left standing.
The soundtrack suggests more action than the visuals do. The mercenaries recon from room to room, their state of the art weapons drawn, trading silent hand signals, while Michael Richard Plowman’s music works overtime to create tension.
But everything takes so lonnng to accomplish, and the payoff isn't as bombastic as one might want. Still, as the genre goes, it's not a terrible waste of an hour and a half. Some impressive but low-tech special effects, interesting-looking actors, sunny locations. The viewer could do worse than to rent this.
Black Noise. Directed by Phillippe Martinez. 2023. Released by Saban Films. 86 minutes. On digital and VOD platforms.