Tim Story’s Horror/Comedy has a wonderful cast but fails to break down the stereotypes of the genre in a meaningful way.
PLOT: Seven Black friends go away for the weekend and end up trapped in a cabin with a killer who has a vendetta. Will their street smarts and knowledge of horror movies help them stay alive? Probably not.
REVIEW: I absolutely love the concept of The Blackening. As a lover of the Scream franchise, I love a film that dissects the genre’s tropes. While this is considerably more comedy than horror, I still hoped there would be clever dissections. And there are definitely moments like that, but they’re less prominent than I’d hoped. In fact, there are long stretches where it seems like the film forgets to be a satire.
This is the story of a group of college friends getting back together for their 10-year reunion to celebrate Juneteenth. The friends feel believable, and their dynamics, while stereotypical, feel true to life. This was my first time seeing many of these actors, and I greatly enjoyed them. Antoinette Robertson and Grace Byers stood out and seemed destined for bigger things. But it’s X Mayo who steals nearly every scene she’s in. Almost every line of dialogue she has elicited a chuckle from the audience I watched the film with. She’s a special kind of funny.
Unfortunately, most of the story beats are very stereotypical when you get away from the comedy. While that’s not inherently an issue, there’s not much to make them stand out. And while some of those stereotypes are intentional to prove a point, it tiptoes into the generic world. The board game that receives prominent placement in all marketing materials is practically irrelevant. I hoped it would be much more integral to the plot, especially after the intro made it seem like it would be. As is, it feels like a prop that wasn’t fully expanded upon.
The third-act twist is obvious, but I still had fun with the unfolding events. It’s easy to judge a twist by how telegraphed it was, but I still liked the message. Plus, as a lover of the absurd, high-intensity twist a la Saw, I enjoyed myself. There are few things I get a kick out of more than a good ole fashioned villain monologue. Although I definitely had an eye roll or two. While absolutely everything else about the killer is generic, the design of their mask is pretty cool. I wish they’d gone for a smarter explanation for their origins, as it convolutes things. I still understand their reasoning, even if I don’t think it worked.
I mostly know Tim Story as the director of Fantastic Four and Barbershop, so I wasn’t expecting an expert on the horror genre. Still, I was disappointed at the strange shifts in tones that go on. “Scary” mostly seems to be darkness with jump scares versus actually trying to create terror. And while this is going more for laughs, the failed attempts at horror are quite distracting. Just like the very stupid character decisions that the film tries to point out, only for the character to do something even more stupid, and it’s not called out.
I certainly wasn’t in the target demo, but I still enjoyed my time with The Blackening. It’s not breaking any new ground but there are some fun moments. We need more satirical horror films out there because they can help move the entire genre forward. But to do that, there needs to be a little more clever introspection versus just commenting on stereotypes and going through with them anyway.
The Blackening is IN THEATERS EVERYWHERE JUNE 16TH, 2023.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-blackening-movie-review/