The Blackening

A horror satire that comes in a timely fashion.

The stereotype that the African-American character has to die first in a horror movie has inspired the horror satire “The Blackening,” which features a black cast as a group of a friends trying to survive a night of horror. The cliches couldn’t be anymore typical to these characters, especially when one of them says: “We Gotta Split Up,” and the rest has to groan.

It’s the kind of satire that imagines a world where “In Living Color” has become one of the longest running series and spoofed “Get Out,” while borrowing some DNA from “Saw” and “Scary Movie.” But then again, “Saturday Night Live” can reach the right targets. But then again, I haven’t watched the new sketches, so I’m gonna stop talking and get to my review on “The Blackening.”

The friends consist of the half-white Allison (Grace Byers), the Urkel-like Clifton (Jermaine Fowler), the reformed King (Melvin Gregg), the party animal Shanika (X Mayo), the oppressed Dewayne (Dewayne Perkins, who also wrote this with Tracy Oliver), the attorney Lisa (Antoinette Robertson), and the African descendant Nnamdi (Sinqua Walls). To clarify, his father is from South Africa, so the friends would think that’s makes him all black. They all spend a weekend in the cabin in the woods (well, technically, it’s a house) to celebrate Juneteenth. They’re here to celebrate freedom.

Then, they go to the game room is a board game with a blackface in the center called “The Blackening.” If you answer incorrectly, you die. If the question was “Name a horror movie where black people survive,” don’t think for a minute that Jada Pinkett-Smith and Omar Epps survived “Scream 2.” If you do, you get killed by a masked figure. Or maybe there’s two.

And they’re all expecting their two friends-the couple Shawn (Jay Pharaoh) and Morgan (Yvonne Orji)-to arrive at the house, but instead, they’re the targets of whoever ever is hosting this game.

Could the killers be white? Well, it is a stereotype. And there is a confederate flag in the surveillance room. And I don’t think that house was supposed to have a surveillance room, but I guess that’s beside the point.

And would they be better off if it was morning soon? Because it’s light outside. I don’t think that would make a difference (I guess they didn’t see “Midsommar,” which was sunny and horrifying throughout), but it is funny the way these characters suggest that.

“The Blackening” has a number of big laughs that can either be political, stylish, or silly. It all depends on how the actors use the jokes. Director Tim Story (in his first entry since “Tom & Jerry”) expresses the right themes without discriminating anyone, and with help from the writers, he’s able to shift between the genres. I may be a white film critic, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t relate to the humor presented here.

Even if I don’t read all the characters, the actors still bring on the humor and pathos at their silly pacing. They know how to use their words, express their tones and attitudes, and relate to certain topics. It’s a horror satire that keeps you going, whether you’re laughing or hoping these character don’t succumb to the horror cliches that kills them.

It’s your turn to play.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

Categories: comedy, Horror, Thriller

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