When seven friends embark on a weekend getaway, their reunion party is cut short when they unexpectedly find themselves confined to a cabin in the woods, with a masked murderer hunting them down one by one. To survive, they must combine their street smarts and horror-film knowledge in order to outwit the crossbow-wielding killer.
Born out of Dewayne Perkins’s TV short, also titled The Blackening, the 97-minute horror comedy is, in brief, a giant game of cat and mouse, where the characters are forced to play a racist boardgame, orchestrated by a blackface voice machine, before all hell breaks loose. No characters receive a greater development than surface level, but there is an exceptional dynamic between them all. The ensemble cast, including Antoinette Robertson, Grace Byers, Sinqua Walls, X Mayo, Melvin Gregg, Jermaine Fowler and Diedrich Bader as the single white character, Ranger B White, really help deliver this movie home, with focus falling more on the sharp, snappy and witty dialogue than on actual blood-curdling violence and jump scares.
On the whole, The Blackening is barely a horror, proving not scary at all, but more a playful project with quite a bit of social commentary, most of it in jest. More similar to the Scary Movie franchise, The Blackening feeds off a steady flow of jokes and a constant flood of entertainment and mishaps. The writing from Perkins is incredibly self-aware, and it is this consciousness that ultimately proves to be so simple yet effective. It stops short of becoming slapstick and the story moves at a terrific pace in the early scenes to get the stressful adventure underway. The drama is stylishly shot by cinematographer Todd A Dos Reis, who makes the most of the cabin in the woods setting to make this movie still feel like a traditional horror.
Heroes come in all forms and from all backgrounds, something made clear in this comedy with the tagline, “We can’t all die first,” a hark to the classic trope that black characters are always the first to die in horror flicks. Now it is time to fight back against the stereotypes, and the movie does so in a way that invites everyone in the audience to feel included rather than alienated because of who they are. Moments of roaring laughter are in abundance and will warm your soul, including an ongoing joke about the psychic abilities of friends, and a fleeting moment in which Dewayne, when faced with a slightly open doorway, cautiously reaches out to close it rather than investigate outside. The lack of an element of fear does make the film feel a little soft, and the main cast rarely appear to be in true jeopardy, but this cognisant adventure still provides just as much joy in return.
The Blackening is released nationwide on 23rd August 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Blackening here: