There is horror, and there is comedy. The Blackening is one of those movies that combines both in an enjoyable and, if not refreshing, way. We played this movie for our friends on a Sunday night just before everyone disappeared into their houses, and I could tell from their beaming faces that they had a good time.
The person who recommended watching this movie assured me it was a crowd-pleaser. I do not disagree one bit. For what it is, The Blackening is a solid comedy-horror that knew when and where not to take itself seriously.
This review has no spoilers.
The plot is your regular run-of-the-mill horror flick where a set of people find reasons to be in a house together. This one involves a bunch of college students who are meeting up after 10 years for a reunion. They have all kept in touch through the years, seeing one another time and time again, But they have not had a time where all ten of them met in one place.
The movie starts with the planners of the reunion, Morgan and Shawn (Yvonne Orji and Jay Pharaoh), already at the cabin where the vacation is going to take place. The couple stumble upon a board game in the game room called The Blackening. When they start to play, they fail a question and someone attacks them. Shawn gets shot through the neck with a bolt that looks like it came from a crossbow. Morgan is dragged away from her dying husband. The opening credits roll.
When the whole friend group gathers, we see that everyone is black. And there are different flavours of black.
- There is the gangsta black that is King (Melvin Gregg).
- The loud and funny black that is Shanika (X Mayo).
- The mixed-race black, Alison, is played by Grace Byers (who I fear may be typecast into this role soon enough).
- Actor and Producer, Sinqua Walls, plays the dark black from sub-Sahara called Nnamdi (damn, Nigerian is everywhere these days).
- And the weird black person Clifton, who nobody likes but still hangs out with anyway (played by Jermaine Fowler).
In their search for the hosts, the friends stumble into the game room and the night of horrors begins. I promised not to spoil the movie. So, I am going to move into the themes tackled in this movie and what they succeeded in achieving.
On the surface, you have this comedy horror flick with jump scares and blood. But the gore is minimal. At its core, this is not a horror film. Rather, it is an exploration of the black community, a second look at the stereotypes and how they interact with each other.
The central question is: Is there a degree of blackness that revokes your black card? (I know there is something that certainly revokes a person’s Nigerian card, lol)
Following the Montgomery boat incident, many people on the internet quickly discovered how willing black people were to defend each other. On the one hand, it is a binding force that has created one of the most close-knit and supportive communities. On the other hand, there could be sects within sects where people don’t qualify.
The Blackening doesn’t dive too deep into the specifics but broadly examines harmful behaviour that cult-like blackness could cause.
While watching the movie, I realized that a huge part of the subtext in the movie was lost on me. I did not grow up in that community and environment. And I also quickly learned that to be black is different from being Nigerian or African. This opens up another discussion on the issue of blackness.
Pulling out from the seriousness and depth of this conversation, we enjoy a comedy horror that is rife with jokes, a plot, and subplots that are pretty enjoyable to watch. I particularly enjoyed Jermaine Fowler’s performance the best of all.
The jokes were good and will even be funnier after one sinks deeply into the culture. The charm of this movie is how it makes you appreciate blackness as a character. The Blackening shows just how cool blackness is when put in any situation.
You can’t take anything away from this movie. It is a light and fun movie that doesn’t try to give more than what it promised. And it provides an enjoyable 94 minutes with your friends.