The Blackening
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Social commentary and laughs mix successfully in The Blackening

A popular comedy sketch receives the full-length feature film treatment in The Blackening from Lionsgate. Tim Story directs the film from Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins. 

Successful couple Morgan (Yvonne Orji) and Shawn (Jay Pharoah) are hosting a college reunion the weekend of Juneteenth at a remote cabin in the woods. The fellas in the group include the square Clifton (Jermaine Fowler), reformed gang banger King (Melvin Gregg), lively Dewayne (Dewayne Perkins), and personal trainer Nnamdi (Sinqua Walls).

The ladies in the group are the bi-racial Allision (Grace Byers), lawyer Lisa (Antoinette Robinson), and the life of the party Shanika (X Mayo). Not long after the fun starts, the friends are confronted with a masked killer who demands that they rank their degrees of blackness so that he can determine the correct order in which to kill them, and must rely on a combination of street smarts and their knowledge of horror film tropes to survive.

The original skit for The Blackening from the comedy troupe 3Peat was highly popular when it aired on Comedy Central in 2018. One of the shorts a film fan sees, and you realize that it would make a solid full-length feature. Growing up in the eighties, like many melanin horror fans, I wondered why the black guy died first. Thus, the strength of The Blackening lies in the sardonic question: If the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?

From the opening moments, which evoke memories of an unmade slasher film from the eighties, The Blackening hits the ground running with laugh-out-loud moments. Cast member Dewayne Perkins who wrote the original short script works in unison with co-writer Tracy Oliver who previously found comedic success with Girls Trip and Little.

While I won’t spoil any of the jokes verbatim, the script highlights several noteworthy moments, including a character’s struggle with playing spades, Allison’s justified disappointment with her friends’ selective acknowledgment of her biracial identity, and the constant mislabeling of King’s wife as “white” despite her Armenian heritage. 

Additionally, the story humorously portrays Nnamdi as the “most Black” simply because of his African-born father, despite Nnamdi being born and raised in Oakland. Some may find issues with the way The Blackening tackles the range of stereotypes, but they are things some folks deal with, so I didn’t find anything offensive.

All cast members get moments to shine with memorable one-liners as they respond to the situations around them. The friendship is organic, and I would love to see the behind-the-scenes footage of they built their bonds. I felt the ladies upstaged the men by a small margin sans Dewayne Perkins, a real scene-stealer.

Previously helming films in the comedic franchises BarbershopThink Like A Man and Ride Along, Tim Story has a knack for comedies and keeps the movie’s plot engaging. As for the film’s horror aspect, there aren’t any real jump moments, but we get some decent kills. A Minor gripe with the film is the reveal of the mastermind. However, with so many quotable lines, I’ll allow it.

Best seen in a crowd presence, The Blackening is one of the early surprises of the summer movie season.

 

Final Grade: A-

The Blackening begins early screenings tonight before opening in theaters tomorrow.

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