Eric’s Review: Black Goat Episode 1 – The 6000 Steps (2021) (HPLFF)

Scary DVDs! Woo!
Elita (Eva Hamilton) is being prepped for a cult ceremony in Black Goat.
★★★★ out of ★★★★★

Destroy all Media has once again teamed up with The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, and are in the process of developing a television series, Black Goat, for which they debuted the pilot at the H.P Lovecraft Film Festival. The Pilot episode drips with cultish dread and portends apocalyptic omens. The cosmic horror universe is ripe for development, and it will be fascinating to see who picks up the series.

Directed by Davey Robertson

The enigmatic Elita Waite (Eva Hamilton) in Black Goat (2021)

As streaming services look for the next big connected universe, it is natural to hook into an existing dedicated fan base… like horror fans! There have already been some extremely successful ventures, like The Walking Dead, American Horror Stories, and the haunted standards of the Haunting of Hill House and Bly Manor. One of the wonderful things about the lore of H.P. Lovecraft is that it is a well-established world that is already interconnected. You can easily foresee a vast globe-trotting storyline chasing cults and shutting them down.

We’ve already had a very good foray into the world of HPL, with the table-turning Lovecraft Country, but that fine HBO show got canceled after only one season. And, looking back at it, Lovecraft Country used some of the trappings of the Mythos, but really carved its own niche into the horror cosmic. It was a light footprint, but one that resonated for sure. Coming off of that series, and the widening popularity of the Lovecraft Cosmic horror in pop culture would suggest that there is an appetite for a television series based on his pulp stories.

Enter Black Goat into the mix. This production features all of the knowledge and lore that the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society can bring to bear, plus the crisp and ready for Madison Avenue cinematography that Destroy All Media brings to the table. These two companies combined efforts in creating the moody Golden-Age tribute The Whisperer in Darkness which showcased what this combination was capable of. They have completed their pilot for Black Goat, and debuted it in Buffalo at a screening in front of the hometown film location, and also at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival for the knowledgeable fan base.

The production team, in creating this for a television series has given themselves some flexibility by making it a “hybrid” anthology series. Rather than a straight narrative, this series will jump in time from episode to episode telling the story from different points in time, something familiar to fans of Lovecraftian Horror. The basis of the stories is from the pulp fiction of the 1920s and 30s, with Black Goat telling the story of “The Thing at the Doorstep”, but allowing a modern and current story to be layered on top of the classic tale. This horror has heritage and history built into its DNA.

Theodore (Jeff Berg) and Elita (Eva Hamilton) meet the innkeepers of Le Chevre Noir (Gerry Maher and Antonia Silveri)

The pilot episode “The 6000 Steps” follows a young couple, Elita Waite (Eva Hamilton) and her boyfriend Theodore Masterson (Jeff Berg) who are, at the recommendation of Elita’s mother’s gifting, traveling for a vacation stay at a mysterious bed & breakfast called “Le Chevre Noir” (Translates “The Black Goat”). The house is impressive, old, moody, and devoid of the technology of modern life: potentially an ideal retreat to get away from all the pressures of a tech-dominated lifestyle.

The innkeepers are decidedly odd. They serve up frozen Hungry Man TV dinners inside their grand dining room, awkwardly grinning and watching the young couple eat. Despite the opportunity to rest in seclusion, Theodore has fitful sleep and is creeped out by the eccentric hosts. Elita has been growing more and more comfortable with the accommodations. Unbeknownst to her waking conscious mind, she has been subjected to cultish rituals at night (also surprisingly not disturbing the sleep-agitated Theodore) while Elita sleeps.

It turns out that Elita has a dark destiny, and their arrival at Le Chevre Noir is no accident. She is the focus of a prophecy untold, and the innkeepers are not just kooky oddballs, but sinister minions of Shub Niggurath, a perverse elder goddess of fertility: the Black Goat of the Woods. Theodore discovers that the innkeepers are MUCH older than they appear to be and that a man named Ephraim Waite, Elita’s grandfather, to be the founding wizard of this cult. Willingly or not, Elita will be key to the summoning of this evil entity as Ephraim had foretold.

Wrong spot, wrong time, Theodore (Jeff Berg) in Black Goat. (2021)

According to series creator Davey Robertson, the character of Ephraim will be a focal point in the series and will allow the story to hop back and forth in time like Quantum Leap meets Black Mirror. If this story follows closely to The Thing at the Doorstep, we can expect a lot of soul-stealing and body-swapping to occur. So timeline and character jumps await!

Also, like the long-running American Horror Story, Robertson explained to me that it is his intent to have the series change primary stories, that might have some connective tissue (as most Lovecraft tales do) but will focus on a different set of characters and circumstances. That will allow each season to tell a complete story, and prevent the series from stretching one story too thin, which is a peril that many Lovecraft-based films suffer from. His work, after all, came mostly from short stories published in pulp magazines of his era. So season one will be a full exploration of “The Thing at the Doorstep” and if given another chance, we would see an adaptation of one of the other stories from the canon. “At the Mountains of Madness”, please! (Yes, that’s a big ask, I know.)

The series shows a lot of promise. All of the actors put in respectable performances. The leads are solid, and effectively provide a good canvas to execute the story of a young couple being pulled opposite ways, by means that they cannot comprehend. The innkeepers (Gerry Maher and Antonia Silveri) layer on the quirkier aspects of their characters, coming off as odd and disconcerting without being outwardly menacing. Robertson’s gift as a cinematographer who has a background in celebrity beauty and glamour really shows up in the framing and focus of the production. It’s a very pretty pilot episode.

One thing for long-time Lovecraft fans to be aware of. This episode, and the original story from which it is based, is not full of tentacled beasties and inexplicable alien presences. At least… not yet. So, set your expectations accordingly. As a classic slow burner horror mystery, it works well and gives a story that is solid as a stand-alone but also shows the potential of much grander possibilities.

According to the official website synopsis, Black Goat will take place over 400 years, and will follow the exploits of Ephraim Waite, as he moves from town to town, time to time, and body to body in pursuit of bringing this ancient powerful God to our world. It hints at bringing in some classic Lovecraft locations like Innsmouth, Miskatonic University, and even provides a nod to Lovecraft Country by connecting it to the Korean War. (Perhaps Destroy All Media is submitting this to HBO as a tie-in point.) The series synopsis is brimming with interesting plot thread potential, but only the Pilot has been shot as of now. Here’s hoping it gets the opportunity of a full run!

Black Goat would certainly be rated MA, with scenes of sex and plenty of profanity. This episode had plenty of sinister goings-on but was light on the violence and gore quotient. At the moment, Black Goat is currently seeking a distributor and is early in its search for a partner.

You can check out the trailer here:

Review by Eric Li

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