The Blackening (2022)
The overall theme and premise of The Blackening seemed clever on the surface - taking the familiar slasher formula and flipping it so the entire cast is black, thereby subverting expectations and stereotypes. In theory, playing with genre tropes and notions of representation could have made for an engaging and thought-provoking film.
Unfortunately, the execution leaves much to be desired.
The biggest issue is that the movie isn't that funny or clever in practice. It relies on painfully obvious jokes and one-dimensional caricatures more than witty social commentary. Even calling it a "horror" film is generous - very little tension, scares, or suspense is created. It mostly plods along, trying to land more coarse than clever gags. The story follows a group of friends reuniting at a remote cabin, only to discover a mysterious killer stalking them Clue-style and forcing them to play a racist board game to win their freedom.
Pairing slasher elements with social satire sounded like it could work on paper. In reality, it just feels forced and inorganic. The jokes are so telegraphed it removes any potential surprise or nuance. It's trying too hard to be meta without really saying anything insightful.
The characters further undermine any attempt at depth. They're one-dimensional walking stereotypes defined almost entirely by their race or sexuality in cliched ways. The supposed comedy reduces people to offensive tropes rather than showing real humanity. It's the definition of lazy, uninspired writing. They constantly make crude racist jokes at each other's expense without an ounce of wit or social perspective, like a dated Comedy Central sketch gone wrong.
Much like a bad stand-up routine that relies on shock value over actual humor, the constant F-bombs and drug/sex references just come across as juvenile and try-hard. They labored under the misconception that being crude automatically equals comedy. But without clever satire, insightful social commentary, or well-rounded characters, it's just crassness for its own sake.
The filmmaking felt amateurish and looked low-budget, with flat cinematography, poor lighting, and thin production values. The gore effects aiming for schlock valor are just sad. But these flaws could be overlooked if the script was a winner - yet the writing and dialogue are undoubtedly the biggest weaknesses. Some cast members, like Yvonne Orji, have talents wasted in service to this flimsy premise and hackneyed material.
There are glimpses of what could have been - the opening scenes do a decent job of setting up racial dynamics and commentary through exposition. And the concept of subverting typical horror cliches through an all-black lens had merit, at least on paper. But those brief moments of potential are few and far between amidst a sea of lazy, unfunny filler. The attempts at social criticism are superficial and unconvincing next to the overreliance on crude non-jokes.
At its core, The Blackening fails because it isn't aware enough of itself. It thinks flashy labeling its beloved horror tropes as "racist" is enough for interesting satire without actually deconstructing them or saying anything new. Being meta for meta's sake isn't inherently clever or thought-provoking. The movie believes pushing boundaries and being provocative automatically means quality when it just comes across as try-hard and immature.
In the end, The Blackening falls embarrassingly short of its lofty aspirations. It doesn't succeed as a horror, comedy, or thoughtful social satire. Uninspired writing, one-note characters, and an over-reliance on crude shock value undermine any attempt at depth or wit. The twisted premise of an all-black slasher flick had merit but lacked the follow-through to back it up meaningfully. This is a movie that thinks it's smarter than it is - style over true substance. But really, it's just a mess that wastes opportunities for genuine social critique or thrills in favor of lazy crassness. I certainly can't recommend seeking it out.