The Black Gloves [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Hex Media
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (8th April 2018).
The Film

"The Black Gloves" (2017)

Psychologist Finn Galloway (played by Jamie Scott Gordon) encountered a traumatic event witnessing the death of a young patient at the hands of her own uncle. What disturbed him more was the girl's belief in a mysterious creature called The Owlman, a taker of sacrificed souls which he thinks he saw at the time of the murder. Set to investigate the mystery, Finn re-listens to recordings of the deceased patient, researches about similar encounters have mostly lead to dead ends, though a newspaper article about a star ballerina Elisa Grey (played by Alexandra Nicole Hulme with similar symptoms ignites his trail. Elisa had disappeared after an accident during a production of "Swan Lake", but was later found living as a recluse in a former orphanage run by ballet instructor Lorena Velasco (played by Macarena Gómez). The journalist said Grey and Velasco are both a little unhinged and Grey's former lover says she has completely become someone else he does not recognize anymore

Finn drives to the manor where the two live. Elisa barely speaks and continues to practice ballet under the instructions of Lorena who controls her every move - from her dance moves to her eating and daily schedule. Finn tries to communicate with Elisa to find both information on the mysterious Owlman as well as helping her psychologically. Will he be able to cure her completely or with the supernatural entity take what is inevitable - a sacrifice?

In 2013 Hex Media unleashed the character of The Owlman to the cinematic world through the horror film "Lord of Tears", a crowdfunded independent film directed by Lawrie Brewster and written by Sarah Daly. Inspired by the mythical Moloch, the figure associated with child sacrifice, the character made its mark in independent horror as the brooding figure and the film was acclaimed for its atmosphere and production, giving Hex Media's first film fairly large attention for a small crowdfunded production. Four years later Brewster and Daly have returned with another chapter of the Owlman, but this time a prequel set in the 1940s rather than a sequel to the modern period original film. The myth of the character goes deeper by connecting the story to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's seminal and influential ballet "Swan Lake" - which had the sacrificial character of Rothbart in an owl-like mask in the production, and having ballet dancers and setting in the film which was entitled "The Black Gloves". While origins and deeper analysis of the entity is still left to interpretation, what makes "The Black Gloves" stand out is its visual language.

Shot entirely in black and white, the film is very influenced by films of the 1940s and some beyond. The character of Lorena is heavily inspired by the controlling Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca" (1940) as well as the setting in the gorgeous rural estate. The use of shadows and light is reminiscent of the 1940s productions by Val Lewton at RKO such as "The Cat People" (1942). The overall creepiness and the use of widescreen cinematography with black and white is very similar to the tone of "The Innocents" (1961). "The Black Gloves" take many homages from the films of the past, but still creates a mood and atmosphere that is both vintage and modern at the same time, and somehow the monochrome visuals make the story timeless rather than timely.

Viewers of "Lord of Tears" will find many homages and references, such as the same location used and some actors returning in various roles unrelated. Visual and audio cues plus the overall direction is a continuation with many of the same crew returning including the cinematographers Gavin Robertson and Michael Brewster and more. The Hex Media crew have certainly grown in production, where "Lord of Tears" has an amateur quality that was both detrimental and beneficial, "The Black Gloves" feels much grander and stylistic even though it was made with much of the same crew. Not to say everything in "The Black Gloves" works. There are some questionable actions by characters, questions on how the two women can survive in a rural mansion alone with no income or help, and also how easily Finn is able to stay at the mansion even though he was threatened to leave only minutes prior. But for most horror films, complete logic is not the key, but it is having creepiness come through the skin. "The Black Gloves" certainly has a vintage creepy feel that the suspense films of early Alfred Hitchcock and Val Lewton films had and that is a refreshing yet unsettling feeling to have in the new century.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray and a region 0 NTSC DVD set which can play back on any Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Hex Media presents the film in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Shot digitally in black and white, the image is basically as clear as it can get, with deep blacks, a wide gray scale, and blasting whites fully utilizing the lights and shadows to their fullest. While it is inspired by an reminiscent of films from the 1940s in its feel, it is in the widescreen ratio which was not used at the time and is evident that the pinsharp clarity is a factor in modern digital photography rather than the film grain look of 40s cinema. As said, the look of the film is not a carbon copy image but rather using modern technology and paying homage to the era and genres of horror and film noir. There are certain scenes that looked a bit too dark in sections that fine detail was lost but these seem to be aesthetic choices rather than faults. With the film and all the high def extras authored onto a single layer Blu-ray, it is expected to see some compression artifacts, though there are none if any with the film taking 15GB of space on the 25GB disc. As for the DVD it is a dual layer disc with the film and the extras again taking the space on the 9GB disc. Strangely while the Blu-ray has the film framed at 2.40:1 with no black space between the left and white edges, the DVD's transfer is very slightly windowboxed with very thin bars on the left and right sides.

The film's runtime is 97:36.

Note the screenshots are from the standard definition DVD



















Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

There are two audio tracks for the film - a 5.1 surround track and a 2.0 stereo track. Unfortunately both tracks are lossy Dolby Digital rather than lossless tracks. The dialogue is mostly front and centered while the surround tracks are used for the music and effects. Dialogue is always clear and easy to hear with no problems with fidelity or distortion. The music composed by Joni Fuller is great, with creepy compositions along with ambient music, ballet tracks, and quietly beautiful piano music. The 5.1 track certainly uses the surround field very well and could have only benefited from a lossless track.

There are optional English and English HoH subtitles for the feature, both in a white font. Both are clear and easy to read well timed subtitles. There was one instance where "Owlman" was spelled "Olwman" (in both of the tracks) but other than that there are no other errors to report of.

Extras

This is a three disc set comprising of a Blu-ray with the film and extras, a DVD copy with the film and extras, and a soundtrack CD.


DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Audio commentary by director Lawrie Brewster
The director/producer of the film gives a solo commentary packed with information, from the inspiration for the style and the story, the parallels to "Swan Lake", notes on the cinematography, the actors, and some trivia including how the same house from "Lord of Tears", plus a lot more. Even with some information overlapping with the other extras, there is a lot of exclusive information in this track.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Cult of the Owlman" featurette (16:33)
Brewster introduces the Owlman though a detailed history lesson that goes back thousands of years crossing with various religions and cultures throughout the centuries. It is more of a mockumentary than a standard featurette, which uses still photos and archival film clips from various old films most likely in the public domain.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Tales of the Owlman" featurette (16:26)
A continuation of the previous mockumentary, Brewster looks for evidence of the Owlman.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Deleted Scenes (6:27)
3 scenes are presented along with text introductions that explain the reasons for deletion. The scenes are fully edited though the sound is not, with some not having proper ADR, music or effects.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Prank Video (4:34)
At the abandoned St. Mary’s Childrens Hospital, hidden cameras are placed throughout to see reactions from people who enter the site and encounter the Owlman and creepy dolls. The "best" three results are shown here. The picture quality is a bit lacking due to the cameras used, but there are some priceless reactions here. Why weren't there more?
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interviews (100:52)
Featuring interviews with Macarena Gómez, Jamie Scott Gordon, Alexandra Hulme, Sarah Daly, Kat Morgan, Tom Staunton, Iain Leslie, Scott Anderson, Keith Robson, Ryan Livingstone, Simon Lam, Fearghas Urquhart, The Black Swan, Tom Staunton and Lawrie Brewster, this collection are mostly taken from on set, with the cast and crew telling their work on the film as well as some funny stories while joking around. With the exception of Staunton and Brewster who talk to each other, all other interviews are done individually. Although there is a large amount of participants, unfortunately there are no chapter stops for this extra so if you plan to watch some and take a break, make sure your player has a "resume" function.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Behind the Scenes" documentary (52:26)
Presented are raw behind the scenes footage in chronological order from the first day of production until the last, showcasing the crew's arrival to the location, jokes played on each other, outtakes, looks at the special effects, as well as goodbyes at the end. Again, there are no chapter stops on this extra.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer (1:49)
The original trailer is presented here, and also embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles





DISC TWO (DVD)
The DVD includes the film and the same extras repeated in standard definition NTSC.


DISC THREE (Soundtrack CD)
The 13 track score is presented on a standard CD.

Packaging

The set is packaged in a DVD-tall size four-panel Digipack case, featuring artwork on both the inner and outer sides. There is no booklet or slipcase with the set. The title, the production companies, and the barcode number are printed. There is no other information for the film or extras, no synopsis printed on the case.

This is the third release for Hex Media and there is the roman numeral III printed on the spine, and like the previous releases (2013's "Lord of Tears" and 2016's "The Unkindness of Ravens") the title is written from bottom to top on the spine, like Artificial Eye releases as well as the standard for French DVDs and Blu-rays, so it may look a little out of place compared to most English-language DVDs and Blu-rays.

Overall

"The Black Gloves" has the creepy vintage vibe as seen in the black and white horror films of the film noir period while still making its own mark with the continuing prequel story of The Owlman. The great black and white cinematography with its use of shadows and light is something frequently missed in today's cinematic world and Hex Media's throwback horror film is a delight. The Blu-ray+DVD+CD set offers excellent video and extensive extras, though unfortunate the audio couldn't get the lossless treatment. The set still comes as recommended.

"The Black Gloves" set is exclusively available from the Hex Media Store

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: B Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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