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.

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed movies for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Over the years, Mark also has written on film for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark was an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University from 1998 to 2018. A career arts administrator, he retired in fall 2021 after 16 years as an executive at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House. Mark now leads bike tours part-time and is working on a screenplay. He lives in Trolley Square with his partner Wendy. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.