The Blackening: Slashing Away at Stereotypes

I always say that the best horror films are the ones that have something to say.

And The Blackening has a LOT to say.

In The Blackening, a group of Black friends as they get together for a short getaway together in a remote cabin. Settling in for a weekend of drinks, games and laughs, their relationships are tested when old grudges bubble to the surface. Things change though when they find themselves in the crosshairs of a brutal killer. Caught in his terrifying game, they must overcome their differences to survive the night—and each other.

Directed by Tim Story, The Blackening is a wicked smart, horror satire that slashes away violently at racial stereotypes. Furiously funny, Blackening takes both its comedy and its horror seriously. Unlike the Wayans’ Scary Movie films, Story’s creates a satire that never becomes parody. While the film isn’t particularly gory, it does know how to build tension and tell a scary story, while still winking at the audience along the way. This is a film that knows that you shouldn’t go in the proverbial door, tells you that they shouldn’t go in the door… but knows they have to go in the door. 

What makes Blackening so special though is its social commentary. Every conversation feels as though it contains a sub-text embedded within it that elevates the material. Story knows exactly what he wants to accomplish with his narrative and he never lets his focus waiver. To him, this isn’t just another parody film. Instead, he takes this as an opportunity to dig away at the stereotypes that have plagued it for decades. (In fact, even the poster for the film states that ‘we can’t all die first’, cutting down the terrible tradition of killing off Black characters early on.)

With an interest in breaking down the nature of identity, Blackening fully leans into is conversations surrounding issues such as gender and sexuality. At the same time, Blackening also sits in the question of black identity, asking how it defines them. Set over the Juneteenth weekend, this is a film that immerses itself within black culture and celebrates the power of black identity. (In fact, even the film’s title card opens by emphasizing the word ‘black’, gradually pulling back to include the rest.)

But what does that mean? Every character in Blackening celebrates who they are and owns their power. At the same time, they also debate about what it means to be Black, comparing everything from the ethnicity of their parents to their musical tastes. In doing so, Blackening recognizes the value in knowing who you are but also points out that everyone seems to have a different definition of what that could mean.

In the end, The Blackening more than survives the night. Brutally funny and unflinchingly smart, Story has created an absolutely killer comedy that is well worth making the trip. 

The Blackening is available in theatres on Friday, June 16th, 2023.

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