Humor is a very subjective thing, but we often recognize when it is done right or not in films. The Blackening is a dark comedy that walks the line between funny and awkward with varying results. It relies on the knowledge of modern-day politics and racial discussions for the jokes to land, which may or may not be successful for some audiences. But while its self-awareness and willingness to push limits on the humor of race discussions are interesting, the movie loses itself in a predictable plot and awkward moments that just end up not being funny. Not even scenes that are suspenseful and legitimately scary can pull the film back from the brink of mediocrity.
The Blackening follows a group of old college friends that get together for a reunion in a cabin in the woods, where things go very wrong after they find a mysterious board game. The game is called The Blackening and has a Sambo anti-black caricature displayed on it, which has its players answer trivia about black history and entertainment. Getting a question wrong causes someone to be killed or something bad to happen, which is done by a killer who wears a sambo mask that hunts players down. After finding some of their friends were killed earlier, the group is forced to play the game, while trying to outwit the killer and survive the night.
Each character we meet within the friend group has an element of an archetype from varying cinema depicting black characters, with some being more interesting than others. The loud best friend, the eccentric gay man, the “wanna-be” thug, the strong yet handsome guy, and even the nerdy fool that nobody likes. Often this is played for laughs, which breaks up the tense moments but is done to an extreme that completely stops the momentum the movie builds up. Does everybody in the cast act well with the material they’re given? Yes, but even their talent isn’t enough to make the majority of jokes funny or the plot of the movie work well.
The movie is very self-aware to the point that it begins to make fun of itself and the tropes that are constantly used with black characters in movies. Sometimes the timing is right and the jokes are genuinely funny, but more often the jokes don’t land well. Instead, they are incredibly awkward and feel like they’re from another film entirely, pulling you out of the moment happening. The jokes that do work are witty and play off the moment they’re in, as opposed to the lines that get preachy or heavily rely on current-day politics and banter.
But what about the horror elements of the film? Is The Blackening at least scary enough or suspenseful enough in some moments when it needs to be? Not as much as you would expect. Not only are there very few kills in the movie overall, but there’s only one kill in the beginning that is handled in a more horrifying fashion compared to everything else. In addition, the board game that the movie is named after is completely forgotten.
Everything becomes a generic horror comedy that feels average once the movie drops the board game entirely. The killer that chases everyone throughout the movie uses a crossbow on his victims, which loses its threatening presence very early on. And when things are revealed and begin to wrap up, the movie will feel very predictable and disappointing. Certain plot points end on a genuinely funny note, but are often ruined immediately by the follow-up scenes as the movie goes on.
If anything else, The Blackening will only make you laugh in some moments and be forgettable when you finish watching it. The humor will definitely not be for everyone, especially those who aren’t already well-versed in black culture, modern political discussions, or even horror cinema. Though witty in some spots, the majority of The Blackening will feel like a mediocre story that ends up being predictably silly and shallow. You might be able to enjoy this film when getting together with a few friends and some drinks to go with, but there’s very little here to stick with you beyond that.
Have you gotten a chance to watch The Blackening yet? Do you think audiences will enjoy this kind of horror comedy? Share your thoughts about the movie in the comments down below!
The movie tries to be funny in a lot of spots, but often stumbles more than it succeeds. The setup and overall concept of the movie is interesting, but the execution is average at best, mediocre at its worst. The jokes won’t always land with everyone for a variety of reasons, especially if you’re not tuned into the subject matter they get into. There are very few tense or scary moments that are overshadowed by everything else that doesn’t work as well.
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