BLACK LIZARD TALES *** UK 2021 Dir: James Edward Newton. 66 mins
Debut film from writer and director James Edward Newton, ‘Black Lizard Tales’ is dark, psychological mood piece that intersects the stories of three troubled people on the campus of a university. In the first, we follow Mary (Bethan Louise) a technician in the theatre department who is troubled by the random appearances of a creepy stage prop doll and also by the visions of a nun. Playing out in a similar way to things like ‘Repulsion’ (1965) she seeks the help of a psychologist, Dr Talon (Paul Richards). All is not what it seems as we move into the second story that focuses on the nun, Sister Juliana (Leona Clarke) who features in some very trippy scenes that are perhaps the best and most visually striking. In particular is an extended scene where she is praying to an inverted crucifix and a statue that is bleeding from its eyes. The cross cutting narrative concludes with its focus on Dr Talon and his own personal demons.
Moodily shot in black and white by Andrew Boothby, and running at just over an hour, this is very much an art/student film. With that you know you are going to get lots of ideas and images, very little plot, acceptable performances and an overall serious approach. It moves at a careful pace which is unnervingly punctuated at times by a surprising edit, musical sting or burst of violence. Speaking of music, special note must also be made of Mark Richards eclectic score which adds immeasurably to the atmosphere.
Certainly not for everyone, this is a well made and well intentioned. I am not sure I completely got it, but I appreciated it. Expect to see this do the festival circuit where I am sure it would play well. Don’t ask me what the title refers to, as I didn’t come away with an answer to that either!
Review by Ben Underwood