Movie Review ~ The Blackening


The Facts:

Synopsis: Seven friends go away for the weekend, only to find themselves trapped in a cabin with a killer who has a vendetta. They must pit their street smarts and knowledge of horror movies against the murderer to stay alive.
Stars: Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, X Mayo, Dewayne Perkins, Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, Jay Pharoah, Yvonne Orji
Director: Tim Story
Rated: R
Running Length: 96 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: As a moviegoer, is there anything more rewarding than sitting in a theater and being a part of an audience that is participating, really participating, in a film? Yes, I’m talking about laughing when it’s a comedy and screaming when it’s a horror film, but also actively listening during a drama and sniffling appropriately during a tearjerker. I’ve come to appreciate these moments and missed them when we didn’t have them during the pandemic. That shared experience is largely back in full force, and audiences are apt to get a dose of laughter and screaming with the release of The Blackening, and it’s the chief reason I would suggest seeking it out. 

Now, is The Blackening a good film? That’s another question I would have to qualify based on your expectations. In the grand scheme of all things horror related, The Blackening is a weaker entry in the larger horror canon. Its cheap production values and quickie filmmaking suggests a fast shoot and even quicker editing. On top of a severely miscalculated performance, the script from Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip) and co-star Dewayne Perkins starts strong with several meta jokes that land with a bang but wimps out quickly with a series of lame diversions that aim to distract but merely mask an unwillingness to make bold moves. 

Morgan (Yvonne Orji, Vacation Friends) and Shawn (Jay Pharoah, The Mitchells vs. the Machines) have organized a weekend away for a handful of their college friends, most of whom haven’t seen each other for years. They’re all connected in various ways. Some are besties, some are frenemies, and some are rekindling romances that had gone south. There could also be a killer among them because once they arrive, a hidden room is revealed, one with a profoundly offensive board game that will test their knowledge of black history and pop culture. Get the answer right, and you advance toward safety. A wrong response yields deadly consequences.

The opening of The Blackening gets the film off to a neat little start, a nifty tip of the hat to several horror flicks from the late ‘90s without being a direct copy. There’s a fine line between parody/spoof, and the kind of comedy being employed shows that thankfully the screenwriters know the difference. The audience has room to breathe, get comfortable with the world Oliver and Perkins have created, and become familiar with the comedy-horror tone used throughout. These early scenes work because the cast is incredibly engaging, and that immense charisma helps to carry The Blackening through some of its third-act stumbles. 

Without revealing any spoilers, I’ll say each cast member gets their moment in the spotlight, for better or worse. The betters would include Antoinette Robertson as Lisa, the would-be Final Girl, if it wasn’t for Grace Byers as Allison, sticking by her side and evading the killer. Perkins plays Lisa’s gay best friend, who is shocked to learn she’s gotten back together with Nnamdi (Sinqua Walls, White Men Can’t Jump), a himbo that had previously broken her heart. It’s disheartening that Jermaine Fowler (Coming 2 America) goes so far over the top as Clifton. While everyone else is playing grounded (as grounded as one can be in this kind of niche film), his performance is so outlandish that it feels like he’s been entirely graphed in from another movie. It stands out for all the wrong reasons.

Director Tim Story (Shaft) is experienced with doing commercial projects, so The Blackening has a slick, professional look. It’s clear that the budget was limited for this one, and I would have loved to see what a little more time and money could have been spent to tweak it a bit more. Perhaps a sequel would provide more of that amped-up experience, burgeoned by the goodwill this initial outing built. If you can overlook the finale’s lack of creativity and energy that starts to deplete around the halfway mark (and how many horror movies have you seen that began with 0% of both?) The Blackening is one to investigate, especially in theaters with a packed audience.

Where to watch The Blackening

One comment on “Movie Review ~ The Blackening

  1. […] his site, Botten reviewed new releases “The Blackening,” “Elemental,” “The Flash,” “The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster,” “Daliland,” […]

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