It’s one of the most notorious tropes in slasher cinema: the Black character always dies first. But what happens when all the characters are Black? That’s the killer concept at the heart of this rollicking horror spoof.
Director Tim Story (Barbershop, Ride Along, 2005’s Fantastic Four) skewers Hollywood convention and urban stereotypes in a rapid-fire satire that manages to be both scathing and affectionate. If the plot ultimately feels a tad stretched – despite the 97-minute run time – you’ll likely be having too much fun to care.
Seven college friends rent a remote cabin (in the woods, naturally) for a weekend reunion and stumble on The Blackening, a board game centred on racist caricatures. Bewildered and bemused, they decide to play, triggering a video recording of an enigmatic masked figure who puts the group through a series of Saw-like puzzles. Jokes are cracked, the mystery deepens, and the strong young cast – including Sinqua Walls (White Men Can’t Jump), Antoinette Robertson (Dear White People), and Grace Byers (Empire) – is slowly winnowed down.
As with any self-respecting slasher, there’s a third-act twist. True, many viewers will guess the big reveal ahead of time (the cast is small, after all). But that’s not really what The Blackening is about. It’s not really about frights either – despite the jump-scare-filled trailer, shivers are actually in short supply. Instead, Story alongside writers Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip, Little) and Dewayne Perkins (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) lean more into laughs, crafting a hangout comedy where the characters lay waste to stereotypes with smarts, style, and charisma.
The Blackening is in UK cinemas from August 23 and in US cinemas now.