With an opening red scrawl that reads, “The following is based on true events… that actually didn’t happen!” you know what kind of movie you’re in for with The Blackening. Written by Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins, the latest entry from the “storied” career of Tim Story (see what I did there?) is the funniest slasher film I’ve seen this year. It’s more than that, of course. You can’t simply have a creepy slasher flick anymore.
The movie follows a group of friends who have been invited for a 10-year post-college reunion at a cabin in the woods over the Juneteenth weekend. Anybody with even passing familiarity with horror tropes can see that something absolutely ghastly is about to occur. Arriving first is Morgan (Yvonne Orji) and Shawn (Jay Pharoah), who find a copy of a terrible, racist, Jim Crow-era game titled The Blackening in the basement. When the lights go out suddenly, the couple is forced to play the game.
This game is moderated by a toy version of Sambo. Perched within the game board, this creepy face sets a two-minute timer when a question or challenge is issued. If the participants fail to answer the question correctly or they let time run out, somebody dies. The slashing monsters, in this case, seem to be these two rednecks in Sambo leather daddy masks; at least, that’s the most accurate depiction I can make of their face coverings. Both early arrivals die, unbeknownst to their friends. The following day Lisa (Antoinette Robertson), Allison (Grace Byers), Dewayne (Dewayne Perkins), King (Melvin Gregg), Nnamdi (Sinqua Walls), Shanika (X Mayo), and Clifton (Jermaine Fowler) all show up. There is no way they are getting out of that cabin unscathed.
“If the participants fail to answer the question correctly or they let time run out, somebody dies.”
Tim Story directed the two Fantastic Four titles from the early 2000s. He has done a great many films concerning Black America since then, including the popular Ride Along. I would argue The Blackening is undoubtedly the most fun movie Mr. Story has ever directed. This is a gloriously demented thrill ride that takes you through every nook, cranny, and swimming hole within crossbow distance of the cabin setting.
The ensemble cast is a bunch of great up-and-comers. The standout performances come from Fowler, Perkins, and Byers. Byers mixed-race character is an absolute hoot. Every time she mentions her White dad is an opportunity for a dark giggle. Fowler’s Clifton, a black man from Vermont, is a fish out of water. I enjoy his anal retentiveness as well as his devotion to his Android. As a man who solely uses an Android, I completely agree that it’s the superior mobile device. Perkins’ Dewayne is a beautiful blend of introverted and chemically induced party boy. I loved how the actor portrayed coming out of his shell with the aid of a little Molly.
While it will not win many (if any) awards, The Blackening is hands down the best time offered in a theater since Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. This horror comedy plays with genre conventions in a sparkling and vividly delightful way. I was entirely captivated by the action from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a good popcorn and soda pop film, then this is for you.
"…a gloriously demented thrill ride..."