June 16, 2023 / Cineplex Pictures
Starring: Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, X Mayo, Dewayne Perkins, Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, Jay Pharoah, Yvonne Orji
Directed By: Tim Story
A group of Black friends 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.
The Blackening skewers genre tropes and poses the sardonic question: if the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?
Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
The Blackening is horror comedy done right as it shines a light on the historical treatment of black characters in horror films with a biting, self aware social commentary and fun twist on the direction of the story that makes for a truly crowd pleasing experience.
When it comes to the horror genre, there is nothing like seeing these films in a sold out theater with an audience fully invested in the film, jumping and screaming in unison. And the same thing can be said about comedy films too, as laughter is truly infectious. So, naturally the horror comedy genre is meant for crowd interaction, and The Blackening has so many moments throughout that will have audiences laughing out loud and jumping out of their seats in pure surprise and terror. The end result: a smart and wildly entertaining film that pokes fun at the horror genre and white people that will leave audiences dying of laughter as a new hit horror comedy is born.
Having booked a vacation for Juneteenth weekend, a group of black friends head off to a cabin in the woods for a reunion and good times. However, they soon discover that they are being hunted by a killer with a vendetta. The only way for them to survive the night: relying on their knowledge of black culture, horror movies and street smarts, even if horror movies dictate that they will all die first.
Being the peruvial cabin in the woods films, this is a true ensemble piece with each cast member getting their moment to shine. Each cast member finds the perfect balance between a serious approach to the horror elements of the story, while having a wicked comedic sense that sells the comedy and social commentary of the film. They are all in sync with how the audience’s mind works, calling out the dumb horror movie tropes as they happen or the social commentary themes, which sets the film up to be a comedic tour de force. For me personally, the standouts of the film were X Mayo and Dewayne Perkins. Mayo revels in the sassy friend role, calling the truth as she sees it no matter what the situation is or how brutal her truth is, delivering multiple scene stealing moments throughout the film. On the other hand, Perkins stars as the main character’s best friend, acting as the voice of reason throughout the film which is necessary for the horror genre while having a great, dry sense of humour.
There is no denying that the film’s biggest asset is its script and the way it blends humour with social commentary. Black characters carry the stigma of too often being the characters to first die in a horror film. So the writers pose the question of “what will happen if all the characters are black” as the starting point for their social commentary. And not for a second are they subtle, hitting the audience with brutal honest yet hilarious jokes. The game itself within the film, The Blackening, is a warped comedic jab at white people’s ignorance of African American culture and the differences between the two cultures, while spoofing the traps from the Saw franchise. It’s the standout sequence of the film, creating so many brilliant jokes that are still living rent free in my mind a week after my screening of the film. Each joke simultaneously will have you laughing, while also confronting the stark reality of the messaging behind the jokes, allowing the film to succeed as both a comedy and reminding audiences of the different life experiences people can have because of the colour of their skin. As a horror film, the film follows the template of the slasher cabin in the woods story, not reinventing it for a second, but a great reveal of the killer and their motive makes for a tense final act that compensates for the basic horror story that unfolds.
Never for a second allowing it to be pigeonholed into one category of film, The Blackening excels because of its screenplay that allows it to be multiple films at once. Part slasher film, part biting social commentary on the treatment of black people in life and in horror films, and one outrageously funny comedy throughout that is never afraid to push the envelope or call the world out as it is, The Blackening is the next great horror comedy that will have theaters erupting into laughter across the country that should gain the film a cult following in the years to come!