Starring: Melvin Gregg as King, Grace Byers as Allison, Antoinette Robertson as Lisa, Sinqua Walls as Nnamdi, Jermaine Fowler as Clifton, Dewayne Perkins as Dewayne, Xochitl Mayo as Shanika, Yvonne Orji as Morgan and Jay Pharoah as Shawn
Director: Tim Story
Where to Watch: In theaters
Date of Release: June 16th
Length of Time: 1hr and 36mins
Fear and laughter go hand in hand in Tim Story’s latest offering, The Blackening. This horror comedy is hilarious, a laugh-out-loud blend of satire and humor that just works. And it’s about time someone put the actions and thoughts of real people on screen during a horror movie. Just to think, this all started from a viral short film on Youtube of the same name.
On the surface, The Blackening seems like your typical horror comedy. A group of friends travel to a cabin in the woods to celebrate Juneteeth ( I don’t know to many Black folk that would celebrate Juneteenth in the woods, which is acknowledged in the film.) Who becomes hunted by a killer in a creepy house and tormented by a mysterious killer, Black Face, who wants the group to play a game…until the last man or woman stands. The usual horror movie cliches are all there: weird police officers, bumps in the night, and an eerie atmosphere. But The Blackening takes these Black tropes and turns them on their head, so we end up with something fresh, fun, and absolutely bonkers.
The tone of the movie is its biggest draw. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes for a refreshing change of pace. Horror comedies are nothing new, but what sets Tim Story’s movie apart is that it doesn’t rely on cheap scares to get a reaction out of its audience. Instead, it finds humor in the absurdity of the situation, poking fun at horror movies and the Black experience in equal measure.
The entire cast is a delight and funny, but special mention Dewayne Perkins, who plays Dewayne in the film, returns as he starred in the short film that The Blackening was based on, he is more knowledgeable about the horror genre and the more believable and entertaining character. There was also, Clifton, played by Jermain Fowler, who was the nerdy archetype, think Urkel except weirder. There were several moments Fowler had campy moments on screen with the other characters, and when it comes to seeing who is the Blackest, he stuck out like a sore thumb because of his awkwardness.
The horror elements are solid, but the comedy shines here because the characters react the way I, or any other Black person, would during these scenarios in the film. Whether it’s a running joke about the town’s “blackening” or a ridiculous chase scene involving a 6’6 athletic man in a Black Face mask trying to murder a group of friends, there’s always something to laugh at. Basically, the antagonist is a hybrid of The Jigsaw killer, Ghost face from the Scream movies, and Jason from Friday the 13th. And it’s not just the quips and one-liners – the movie is packed with visual gags and absurd set pieces that had me howling with laughter. It’s not often you see Black characters in horror films live to fight the villain and, better yet, outrun them. The best I can remember is the Black character Julius in Jason Takes Manhattan, where he tried to fight Jason on a rooftop in New York. He threw a barrage of punches that barely affected Jason, only to have his head knocked off with one punch. Then there’s Joel ( Duane Martin) in Scream 2, who decided to do what I would do, leave the location where people are dying. I’m still cracking up at the fact he left Gale’s ass at the college with the camera and like, “People are getting murdered, and I’m out!”
The movie’s pacing is sometimes tight, and there’s never a dull moment. The jokes come fast and furious, but it never feels overwhelming. And while there are certainly some cringe-worthy moments – the gore factor is relatively high – Tim Story’s deft direction keeps everything in balance. The movie knows when to ramp up the tension and when to let loose with some ridiculousness, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining experience from start to finish.
There may be some comparisons to Scary Movie and there but the film is more rooted in the completely Black experience in a horror movie, where the characters are predominantly Black, and they are completely different is personalities and how they interact with each other.
Horror comedies are a tough nut to crack, but The Blackening hits the mark perfectly. It’s a movie that manages to be both genuinely funny and genuinely scary, a rare feat in a genre that usually leans too heavily on one or the other. But with Tim Story at the helm, we get a movie that’s both a love letter to the horror genre and a biting satire of it. It’s the kind of movie you’ll want to see again and again to catch all the little jokes and visual nods you might have missed the first time. I am sure this movie will have clips plastered all over social media and trending for weeks.
In short, if you’re looking for a horror comedy that delivers laughs and scares in equal measure, look no further than The Blackening. It’s a wild ride that’ll have you cackling with laughter and cringing of your seat at the gore. And honestly, we could all use a good laugh right about now.