Review by Sean Boelman
The Tim Story-helmed The Blackening debuted at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was quickly snatched up by Lionsgate for a theatrical release this year. Taking advantage of its creative concept to deliver some amazing laughs, The Blackening is best described as a mix of spoofs like Scary Movie and genre-bending flicks like Bodies Bodies Bodies.
The movie follows a group of old friends from college who meet at a cabin in the woods for a reunion, only to discover that they are being tormented by a masked killer who wants to interrogate their “Blackness.” The film’s conceit is based around the trope that the Black character always dies first in a horror movie, asking the question of what would happen if the entire cast is Black.
It’s important to note that, while this is being positioned as a horror-comedy, it’s more accurately described as a spoof. There’s nothing about the film that is particularly scary or suspenseful. Granted, the movie isn’t *totally* predictable in that it feels like anything could happen, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to an “edge-of-your-seat” feeling.
However, what the film lacks in scares, it makes up for in absolutely gut-busting laughs. The movie is broadly funny enough for mainstream audiences to enjoy, with one gag coming to mind that played better with the audience than any other bit in memory. However, for those who are familiar with horror tropes — particularly as they relate to Black people and other people of color — this is sure to be one of the funniest movies of the year.
The film’s central theme is the idea of “Blackness,” and while the comedic approach to this topic prevents it from digging deeply enough for it to be a conversation in and of itself, it asks plenty of interesting questions. Some ideas are visibly left on the table — like cultural assimilation, a discussion of which would have felt very in-place in this movie. Still, the aspects of Black identity that the film does choose to explore are very interesting.
Of course, the premise of the movie naturally lends itself to the characters being very archetypal. After all, the purpose of the film is for it to poke fun at the tropes of a genre not exactly known for its subtlety and nuance when it comes to character work. However, the movie treads this line carefully, ensuring that it does not deal overly heavily in stereotypes.
The film boasts a cast full of hilarious Black comedians. The funniest person is probably Dewayne Perkins, who has several moments that will leave audiences rolling in their seats with laughter. However, Jermaine Fowler, X Mayo, Jay Pharaoh, and Melvin Gregg all have some truly hilarious bits.
The Blackening is without a doubt one of the funniest movies of the year. Horror fans will be delighted with the many ways in which it pokes fun at the tropes of the genre, and general audiences will just be able to laugh at its frequently riotous jokes. This is the type of comedy best enjoyed with as large of an audience as possible.
The Blackening screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.