Reviewed by Cliff Homewood

The trailer showed great potential.  Comedy horror with fun twist. It’s not often film gets the balance right.  Hoping, perhaps unfairly, for a Shaun of the Dead, the best of the genre, this is more horror with the occasional joke, akin to Scream with a more predictable ending.  It mentions People under the Stairs, perhaps aspiringly, but it is not at that level.  Whilst that film walks on the wild side with Lou Reed this feels more hip with Huey Lewis.  It also references the cult black cultural film Friday, which I found overrated.  See, hip, like you must know Spades, the card game being a big thing in this black community.  It portrays relationship dynamics well.  I felt for the frustrated friend advising not to go back to a man that’s treated you bad and the ‘doesn’t really fit in’ group member (he doesn’t know the game of Spades!)

Reminiscent of Jumanji in that it has a boardgame setup, the game’s suitably evocative, toying with racial stereotypes and played by answering race related questions.  Get a question wrong and YOU DIE! DIE! DIE!

Directed by Tim Story, known for the Fantastic Four films, his best work so far is the Samuel L Jackson Shaft reboot.  The Blackening started as a short with the same scenario as the trailer.  I expected more humour to be gleaned from this scenario, it lasted about 2 minutes.  It’s a great idea.  A black person in horror is the first to die, so what happens when the whole cast is black?

The story is somewhat predictable and characters act stupidly at times.  If they had stairs in their apartment rest assured, they would run up them.  Oh wait, they do, and they did.  It’s hard to review a film about being black as a white person as it’s not my experience.  Any conversations I have with black people may suffer from the Observer effect – being white may change what is being said around me.  One of the few white characters mentions this, Ranger B White.  A name which messed with my head in trying to work out his role in proceedings.

The film is involving and tense.  I was just expecting more mileage from its concept.  A critic should review what a film is and not what they want it to be.  Trailers can lead to false expectations.  If you expect a good solid rollercoaster slasher movie with the occasional joke, you shouldn’t be disappointed.  One of the funniest scenes is in the end credits.

The Blackening has mind-talk going on.  Introduced with a line of dialogue implying they are reading each other’s facial gestures, but the conversation gets complex, so it’s hard to know if actual telepathy is involved.  I suspect the answer is that it was done for a laugh; you are not meant to care.

The Blackening has cult written all over it.  A standard slasher thrill-ride with a novel gimmick and a handful of jokes.  Like Happy Death Day before it.