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The Blackening Review: Insane Horror Comedy

The Blackening is an insane horror comedy that keeps the laughs coming until the credits roll.

Halfway through The Blackening, I made a somewhat shocking realization. Since the pandemic, I have not laughed this hard in a movie except one other time, with Bros. This film follows a group of Black friends who decide to vacation at a cabin in the woods to reunite over the Juneteenth weekend. On the very first night of their stay, they realize that there is a masked killer who forces them to play a deadly game called The Blackening. While this game seems laughable at first, it will soon become a fight for their lives as they try to prove who is the Blackest among them.

Right from the start, it becomes clear that this horror-comedy will lean a lot more into the comedy side. As the film begins, words come onto the screen which says, “Based on true events…which never happened.” Since the film is more heavy-handed on comedy, almost all 90 minutes of The Blackening are totally hilarious. One of the main reasons why it ends up being so funny is that this is an ensemble piece.

There are seven characters that we follow throughout this ordeal, and each of them has strong and distinct personalities. It’s really hard to have a favorite among this bunch, since they all have close to equal screen time, which includes at least one standout scene. Since they are all so different from each other, there are plenty of times when different characters clash, which is often hilarious for the audience. While all these actors do their characters justice in their respective roles, the screenplay by Tracy Oliver & Dewayne Perkins plays to everyone’s strength.

loud and clear reviews The Blackening (Lionsgate / 2023 Tribeca Film Festival)
The Blackening (Lionsgate / 2023 Tribeca Film Festival)

From the title, it is apparent that The Blackening centers around in Black culture in all aspects. The film is only tries to appeal to Black people unapologetically: most of its humor is bold, and it’s all the more hilarious because of it. There isn’t a minute that goes by without at least one joke, even if it is as small as someone claiming that they haven’t seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre because they are scared of white people. Since the humor is nonstop, by the time we reach the climax, it becomes tiresome still watching these actors deliver joke after joke, but it never gets to the point where you are ready for the film to end, or where you stop laughing.

There is something special about seeing movies made by People of Color that are specifically for people of their identities, especially when it’s with a big crowd of those people. Anytime you go to the movies, I always feel like there is a micro-community of people that are in your theatre, since everyone there chose to see that movie. When it comes to films like The Blackening, that sense of community feels even stronger, making the viewing experience a lot more fun and memorable.

The Blackening’s advertisements give the impression that this film willis going to be very politically charged. Unfortunately, the political or social commentary isn’t deeper than what any of the trailers and posters tell you. Of course, there is the stereotype where Black people are always the first to die in horror movies, so when there is an all-Black cast, one of them has to survive. On top of this, these characters always try to do the opposite of what they think white people should do once they realize that they are in a horror movie scenario. For example, there comes a time when the best option is for the group to split up, there is a lot of discussion about why this is a bad idea because that’s what white people always do in these situations.

Besides elements like this, The Blackening doesn’t have much to say, which is disappointing. However, regardless of the loss of potential to make a stronger cultural impact, it is still such a fun movie. Even if you don’t understand every reference, or don’t laugh at every joke, this film is worth a shot just for the excitement of seeing something of this scale with a large crowd. It was certainly an unforgettable experience for me, and it’s something that I hope all audience members can take part in.

The Blackening premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 13, 2023 and is now available on digital, on demand, and on DVD & Blu-Ray in the US. The film was released in UK cinemas on August 23.

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