Blackstock Boneyard is a film with intent. The filmmakers clearly went into it with heart and an important message to share. It’s based on the real-life wrongful conviction and execution of brothers Thomas and Meeks Griffin in 1915. The film presents their story, enhanced with supernatural elements and modern-day characters with ties to their land.
It begins with an intro scene featuring the brothers’ conviction, with flashbacks to the crime scene they are accused of being part of. The Griffins were prominent black farmers from South Carolina, accused of the murder of a local Confederate veteran. After their execution scene, the story moves to the present day. At this time, we meet fictional characters added to flesh out the story featuring the brothers’ revenge.
Lyndsy (Ashely Whelan) recently learned she’s inherited some land from a distant deceased ancestor. One who happened to be the wife of the man the Griffins were accused of murdering. This land originally belonged to the Griffin brothers, who were forced to sell their farm to pay for their legal defense. Lyndsy arrives in town with three of her best friends in tow and is immediately greeted by Roger Newbold (Jonathan Fuller). He’s a local attorney who leads her directly to the office of Judge Ramage (Terry Milam), where she learns that the land is split between their three families. The two men plead for her to sign paperwork to sell the land, so they can all profit from the development of a new supermarket.
It’s not long before we’re shown the corruptness of the locals, and it’s clear that the town is still brimming with racism. Not much has changed since the wrongful conviction of the Griffin brothers one hundred years prior. While this film represents only one story, it sheds light on the larger issue of racism and related hate crimes in America.
The film’s strong points fall within this realm, as the racially charged violence, while difficult to watch, leaves a strong impact on the viewer. It’s impossible not to be emotionally affected, knowing that these crimes existed not only years ago but still occur today. The return of the Griffin brothers is brought on by a hate crime in the local cemetery, and this was a very fitting way to bring them back into the picture.
A solid score adds to the atmosphere, especially during the early scenes, and again during the tense moments following the brothers’ return. Speaking of this, they come back wearing the same burlap sacks donned during their execution, which adds to the creep factor and the uniqueness of their costume compared to other movie killers.
While I appreciate the film’s message, it lacked several elements necessary to make it a standout story. Ultimately, the acting was mediocre at best, and it took away from the believability. Lyndsy’s friends were over-the-top exaggerations of “airhead” female characters, and the character development, in general, was lacking.
Everything moves rather quickly, as the entire film takes place across one day (aside from the intro featuring the events from a century prior). It didn’t work in this instance, and I’m not sure if it was too much crammed into the film’s runtime, or if it was just laid out wrong. The arrival of the brothers and their revenge felt a bit rushed, as was the development of Lyndsy’s relationship with local Jesse Washington (Aspen Kennedy Wilson). While the message was conveyed, these factors took away from the film’s potential to be more powerful in its delivery.