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Review: 'The Blackening' is a refreshing new take on horror cliches

Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2023 at 3:24 PM Central
Last updated Tuesday, August 22, 2023 at 3:27 PM Central

by John Couture

When I say horror satires, most people will come up with the Scary Movie franchise, but then they will struggle to name more. If you're a little older, you might bring up some classics like the Saturday the 14th films.

If you have an eye for the classics, you will point out the earliest horror spoofs when Universal went for a cash grab with their classic monsters and comedy duo Abbott and Costello. Of course, most of you reading this have never seen a black-and-white movie, so I digress.

After that, most people draw a blank. This is most likely due to what I call the Scream effect. This film did such a masterful job of blending satire, comedy and horror that it truly transcended horror satire. Sure, the Scary Movie films were cute, but they were mostly setup to capitalize on the success of Scream than to actually poke serious thought into tired horror tropes.

Enter The Blackening.

The Blackening centers around a group of Black friends who reunite for a Juneteenth weekend getaway only to find themselves trapped in a remote cabin with a twisted killer. Forced to play by his rules, the friends soon realize this ain't no motherf****** game. Directed by Tim Story (Ride Along, Think Like A Man, Barbershop) and screenplay and screen story by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip, Harlem) & Dewayne Perkins (The Amber Ruffin Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), The Blackening skewers genre tropes and poses the sardonic question: if the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?

You almost get the impression that the film started with the question, "if we have an all-black cast in a horror movie, who would die first?" And it's not like the movie shies away from this central question. In fact, it uses it in their marketing materials and several times during the film.

The Blackening is the sort of film that I think the Wayans brothers would make today if they were still in their prime. Don't get me wrong, The Blackening wouldn't exist without the heavy lifting from Scary Movie, but this isn't a spoof, it's a biting satire on the underrepresentation in horror movies.

While the scales have balanced recently with the success of Jordan Peele and his films, there is still a long way to go before horror films break free of the clichés and tropes that have held them down for the last thirty years. I'm hopeful after seeing so many diverse horror films in the last couple of years that we are finally turning a page on this aspect of horror.

If I had to describe The Blackening to someone, I would say that it's equal parts Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and Scream with a bit of the Saw films thrown in for narrative purposes. For some, there might be too much comedy and not enough violence for a proper horror film, but I'd argue that horror comes in all shapes and sizes, so you just have to roll with it.

What The Blackening does extremely well is playing with the audience's expectations and sending them in a totally different direction. The true horror of the situation lies in the universal truths that the film plucks out from our everyday interactions. Whether it's the absurd suggestion of calling the cops for help or voting for Donald Trump (twice), the humor finds its roots in the very division around us.

Hopefully, we can grow as a country and recognize the ridiculous divide for what it is and embrace our fellow Americans. For that's the true message of the movie. Why do these clichés exist? Because we let them. Everyone should see The Blackening and examine how the last couple of decades furthered the divide when they should have brought us together.

Without more films like The Blackening, I fear that we will simply become complacent in our everyday existence and the ability to change will be lost to time. They say it's never too late, and that might be true, but a good place to start is watching The Blackening.

The Blackening is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.