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‘Black Mold’ review: Dir. John Pata [FrightFest 2023]

In John Pata’s Black Mold, two photographers get more than they bargained for during a shoot in a derelict building. Brooke (Agnes Albright) and Tanner (Andrew Bailes) spend their days entering abandoned structures and photographing what remains. It’s an unusual way to source their art, but it is one that they take very seriously. After taking some photos at some more typical locations, Brooke pushes for the pair to enter a facility that has been lying dormant for years. Initially the building provides them with the perfect imagery, but then they meet ‘the man upstairs’ (Jeremy Holm) and find themselves in a battle of wills. 

Black Mold has an enjoyable gradual pace as it slowly moves along. The opening photography trips allow the viewer to get to know both Brooke and Tanner. They chatter aimlessly, banter with one another, and tell the viewer everything they need to know without any clunky exposition. An early fright has Tanner confessing his fear of scarecrows; the environment induces his allergies and Brooke teases her traumatic childhood. All of this information comes into play later. Once inside the facility, they begin breathing in the stale and mouldy air, but this particular strain causes more than just allergies. 

A tense twisting of paranoia sets in. Initially it is just the man upstairs who is riddled with suspicion, but soon Brooke and Tanner become affected. As they succumb to whatever has afflicted the strange man, Brooke and Tanner begin to hallucinate. It is during these sequences that Black Mold truly shines. Fears from the past attack each other and the two duo must do battle with absent fathers, gnarly scarecrows, and more ghastly beasts. A standout scene is set in Brooke’s memory and gives a whole new spin on the phrase, ‘give you a piece of my mind’. The further Black Mold progresses, the more intense and invasive the visions become and the viewer finds themselves clamouring to keep track of what is real and what is not. 

It is not just the hallucinatory sequences that make Black Mold look good, the whole visual style of the film is beautiful. Tinted blue and grey, the cinematography builds atmosphere from the first frame. As the sun goes down, these hues are intensified, casting shadows amongst the visions creating even more intrigue. On top of that, Pata populates the blues with oranges and ambers that illuminate the darkness and add a warmth to the picture. 

Outside of the overwhelming waves of paranoia, artfully constructed visual and devious hallucination sequences, Black Mold struggles to fully articulate itself. With so much to follow and feel on screen, the main narrative arcs become a little lost. Enough breaks through the noise however to ensure that the audience won’t leave feeling short changed. 

Black Mold

Kat Hughes

Black Mold


Paranoia reigns supreme in John Pata’s twisting tale of hallucinations run amok. 


Black Mold was reviewed at Pigeon Shrine FrightFest 2023. 

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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