The uncanny mutants of Charles Burns’s graphic novel will plague your local multiplex.
Imagine the X-Men but without the cool super powers. Just a group of teenagers who have contracted a mysterious physical mutation as a result of a sexually transmitted disease nicknamed “The Bug.” You don’t get laser eyes or control over the weather; instead you can enjoy some rad devil horns to preen. Charles Burns’s graphic novel “Black Hole” is a seminal example of sequential art. It’s the book for those who have always wanted to see David Lynch take on the superhero genre. Others prone to goosebumps and nightmares may want to steer away.
According to Variety, Rick Famuyiwa, the writer/director of Dope, whom we last saw getting hired and fired from the DCEU’s aborted The Flash franchise, will now be adapting Burns’s book for New Regency and Brad Pitt’s Plan B. That seems like a pretty good fit. As he proved with Dope, Famuyiwa has a strong connection to the plights of teenagers, and he’s obviously been itching to scratch his passion for comic books. “Black Hole” is a deeply troubling exploration of that physiological change we all go through, and set inside a high school arena that’s as bloody as any battlefield.
“Black Hole” shares a story of alienation taken to the extreme. This is not a fantasy in which a few brilliant minds come together to fight the disease, or bring understanding to the infected. This is the struggle of The Breakfast Club, but instead of cute little stereotypes who learn to find the similarities that bind them, there’s a teen plague that simply exposes the pain we all suffer at that age. We’re splayed out there like those vivisected frogs in Biology class.
How did any of us survive such misery? Pop Culture. Movies, music, and art. The infected of “Back Hole” flee into the majesty of those who escaped their own adolescent hell and flourished in their creativity. At least in suburban Seattle of the 1970s they had the phantasmagorical revelation of David Bowie. The hippie generation had died out, and the spiders of Mars were there to rescue them. When the world doesn’t make any damn sense, our teenage obsessions are often the only things that get us from day to day.
Throw in a few murders for good measure, and “Black Hole” manages to be as thrilling as any X-Men adventure with the added bonus of genuine, real-world dread. The success of the film will be in Famuyiwa’s ability to capture the creep of Burns’s panels. Of course, the kids will be the critical element. My suggestion is to look towards Marc Meyers’s My Friend Dahmer and steal their casting director.
While not all their productions have been winners, Plan B is a company that goes for the big swing. Recently, they’ve been behind Okja, Moonlight, The Lost City of Z, The Big Short, and Selma. To see their confidence behind Famuyiwa and Black Hole is exciting. I don’t imagine this will be the kind of film to run away with the box office, but there’s no doubt it will have an impact on those that dare to see it.