Star Rating:

The Blackening

Director: Tim Story

Actors: Antoinette Robertson, Dewayne Perkins, Sinqua Walls

Release Date: Friday 25th August 2023

Genre(s): Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Running time: 97 minutes

A group of friends reunite for the annual Juneteenth celebration in a remote holiday cabin. After a power outage finds them cut off, things begin to take a sinister turn when they're forced to play a board game called The Blackening - which requires them to answer trivia on black culture in America. If they get it wrong, they die...

In the years since 'Get Out', it's been fascinating to see how horror has developed a more defined sense of cultural awareness in itself. It's true, some horrors over the years have been tone-deaf and others have smartly blended genre chills with social commentary. 'The Blackening' navigates a path somewhere between 'Get Out' and 'Scary Movie', in that you've got some jump-scares rolled in with some decent laughs along the way.

'The Blackening' tends to get its wires crossed at certain points, unsure if it wants to be a horror, a horror comedy, a horror parody, or just a straight-up comedy. Tim Story, who previously directed movies such as 'Barbershop' and the buddy-cop movie 'Ride Along' and its sequel, has a handle on the comedy aspects of the movie and tries his best with the horror. There's clearly a keen awareness of how Jordan Peele has made a horror movie with a cultural impact on the black community in the US, and Story is trying to pay homage and make his own mark in a similar fashion.

It largely works, as 'The Blackening' has a lot of wit and broad humour mixed together. The central concept of the movie - a board game about black pop culture - brings up some pretty funny moments. For example, one question centres around what season the actor who played Aunt Viv in 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' was replaced. (Answer: Season 4). Another sees the local sheriff - played with delightful exaggeration by the great Diedrich Bader - give the correct answer to a white person attending a black cookout. However, some of the jokes - like some of the questions in the board game - would likely fly over the heads of European audiences, but what of it? 'The Blackening' is unrepentant in how it speaks to its intended audience, so why should it have to blunt itself in order to fit all audiences?

As horror-comedies go, 'The Blackening' has its moments, the cast is more than equal to the task, and while some of its pop culture references might not necessarily land, it's nevertheless a fun and entertaining watch.