FEARNET Movie Review 'Blackfish'


As a lifelong horror film fanatic, I've spent hours watching some of the most terrifying visual fiction you can imagine, and I believe that some of those films have helped me to become more sensitive to real-life violence. Or perhaps I'm just an animal lover, because I find myself affected by films like The Cove, Project Nim, and the excellent new documentary called Blackfish in a way that fictional horror simply cannot duplicate. Nor would I want it to.

In a nutshell, Blackfish is a film about how we, the oh-so-civilized humans, have managed to abuse, humiliate, and more or less torture one of the planet's most majestic creatures, and for no other reason than cash money profit. Using recent headlines as a great starting point for this vital discussion, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite focuses mainly on the sad story of Tilikum, an orca (aka "killer whale") that has been responsible for three deaths and numerous injuries over its years in captivity. But the most telling statistic in the film is that there's not one human fatality on record regarding a killer whale ever killing a person -- in the wild, that is.
Composed of fascinating interviews with trainers who've witnessed all sorts of terrible things behind closed doors (and one very touching conversation with a former whale hunter who clearly regrets his actions) and some truly haunting archival videos, Blackfish may sometimes come off as a simple thrashing of Sea World and similar attractions -- but the film also has a lot of plain, simple, and sometimes ugly truth on its side. For example, the film indicates that these "ocean park" attractions make as much money (or even more) from whale by-products as they do from ticket-buyers. Kinda makes one wonder if the "spectator" aspect was just added as window dressing for a company that makes millions of dollars as nothing more than whale semen salesmen.
Suffice to say that Blackfish is as insightful as it is long overdue. Those who are well aware of how poorly we treat these animals will see the film as a rallying cry, and those who are not will hopefully wake up, speak up, and help put government-sanctioned animal abusers out of business. Yes, my socio-political beliefs hew very closely to the message that Blackfish is putting forth, but regardless of your own stance on the issue of "captive whales," there's little denying that Blackfish is an angry, pointed, and fascinating piece of documentary filmmaking.
It also contains two of the most horrifying sequences I've ever seen in a movie. Any movie. If that sort of salacious detail helps make you more interested in seeing Blackfish, I'm fine with that. I just want people to see it.