‘The Blackening’ Review

The Blackening centers around a group of Blackfriends who reunite for a Juneteenth weekend getaway only to find themselves trapped in a remote cabin with a twisted killer. Forced to play by his rules, the friends soon realize this ain’t no motherf****** game. Directed by Tim Story (Ride Along, Think Like A Man, Barbershop) and screenplay and screen story by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip, Harlem) & Dewayne Perkins (The Amber Ruffin Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), The Blackening skewers genre tropes and poses the sardonic question: if the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?


“Ugh, I’m so tired of this WOKE bullshit” a young man exclaims as he motions his girlfriend to look at the poster on the wall for ‘The Blackening’ before proceeding into the auditorium for their film. This is a real conversation I overheard a few months ago at a movie theater I work at. It took every fiber of my being to not politely interrupt the guy. If anyone has seen the trailer for this film, you know the basic premise by now: a group of young black friends get together at a cabin in the words to party and celebrate Juneteenth and each other’s friendship when things take a turn and they become hunted by a masked killer. On the surface, it sounds like almost every typical cliché horror film rolled into one with a black cast and seemingly easily dismissible from ignorant, close-minded people who throw the word “woke” too loosely without any actual understanding of the term. But taking a deeper look at the film, especially upon watching the movie itself, it’s more than just a “race-swap” of any classic horror movie you can think of.

Wonderfully directed by Tim Story and based on the hilarious Comedy Central short of the same name, the film takes a look at the trope of black people traditionally being killed off first in horror movies and flips it on it’s head by making the whole cast of survivors and victims played by black actors. “Who dies first when everyone is black?” Is the question that the movie asks and answers in hilarious and thought-provoking ways. The spectacular cast of survivors is comprised of Jay Pharoah (Shawn), Yvonne Orji (Morgan), Dewayne Perkins (Dewayne) who is one of the co-writers of the film and geniuses behind the original short, Antoinette Robertson (Lisa), Grace Byers (Allison), X Mayo (Shanika), Jermaine Fowler (Clifton), Melvin Gregg (King), and Sinqua Walls (Nnamdi).

The cast is incredible with their chemistry that shines through their interactions on screen making it fully believable that they are indeed best friends who haven’t all been together for quite some time. The conversations, the wise-cracks, the exchanges of very readable looks, calling each other out on their B.S. It all feels real. There’s no shortage of talent here. The Story itself, co-written by the aforementioned Dewayne Perkins and Tracy Oliver, does an amazing job of taking many beloved and hated cliché moments and tropes across many classic and even modern horror films such as being unsure of who to trust and whether a group should split up or stick together. There are a decent amount of easter eggs and call-backs that horror fans will surely enjoy, from the classic remote cabin in the woods, to eerie musical cues in the score. Even down to certain camera angles and tricks, average and die-hard horror fans will be sure to find many things to enjoy in this film.

As for the obvious main target audience, this film is certainly unapologetically black. From some of the lingo and slang, to the pop-culture references, needle drops, wardrobe, throwbacks, and deep cuts. This film looks in the face of it’s black audiences and winks at them just as much as any other horror comedy movie does the hardcore horror community. The film examines and tackles certain themes and cliches within both the black community and the horror community simultaneously such as what it means to be black and the roles black people play within the horror genre in perfect unison. The movie overall feels like a sweet blend of Scream meets The Cabin In The Woods with a hint of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a nice side of Get Out.

There isn’t a single moment where the movie comes off as too “preachy” or “woke” like some folks might assume. The film manages to balance the comedic and serious moments in ways where neither tone overpowers or clashes with the other, especially in the moments that address what’s topical. A feat that can often times be difficult for some movies especially in today’s current state. Beneath all the incredible jokes and scares is a brilliant twist with a message attached that I personally would love to get into, but certainly don’t want to spoil for anyone.

This movie is meant to be experienced on the big screen with a crowd of as many folks as possible. You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you’ll cheer, and hopefully you’ll leave the auditorium thinking and talking with your friends and fellow horror nerds, black, white, and everything else in-between. The target audience may certainly be black horror nerds specifically, but The Blackening is overall perfect for everyone to enjoy. Go see it and have fun.

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