By Mark Fields
Horror films, good and bad, have numerous tropes familiar to fans of the genre. One of the most inescapable, and regrettable, of those is that the black character (and yes, there is usually only one) will be the first to die. The Blackening plays on that trope to hilarious and thrilling effect. In fact, the knowing tagline of the movie is “We Can’t All Die First!”
Seven black college friends have an informal reunion at an isolated cabin in the woods, and they soon discover that they are being stalked by a ruthless killer with a vendetta against them. To thwart the murderer’s plan, they must draw on their cultural experience and intimate knowledge of horror films to survive until morning.
Writers Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip) and Dewayne Perkins (Brooklyn Nine Nine) and director Tim Story (Barbershop) know this genre and its convention intimately and exploited them to the hilt. The references to horror films and overall culture are knowing, and funny even to this middle-aged white writer. The cast – including Perkins, Antoinette Robertson, Grace Byers, and Yvonne Orji – leans into the silliness and the scares with enthusiasm. The result is a raucously funny and biting film, and a very good time.