Monday, November 6, 2023


Film: The Blackening
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A couple of days ago, I watched a movie called Gatlopp, which involved a group of people playing a cursed boardgame. It was reminiscent of Jumanji in some ways. It also involves someone playing the game being shot with an arrow. How strange, then, that within the same seven days I have now watched The Blackening, a movie in which a group of people play something like a cursed board game and in which someone is shot by a crossbow bolt. It’s a weird confluence of things happening in films, a bizarre coincidence.

The Blackening concerns a group of friends renting a cabin in the woods for a Juneteenth celebration weekend. We’re initially introduced to Morgan and Shawn (Yvonne Orji and Jay Pharoah), who are the first to arrive at the house. They find a game room that contains an extremely racist boardgame called The Blackening. The game essentially starts playing with them standing there. It asks a question (name a horror movie where a Black character survives to the end), they get it wrong, and Shawn is hit in the throat by a crossbow bolt, and Morgan is herself attacked. That’s going to set the stage for what is coming next.

The rest of our people soon show up. These are Allison (Grace Byers), Lisa (Antoinette Robertson), and Dewayne (script co-author Dewayne Perkins). Dewayne has a feud against Nnamdi (Sinqua Walls), who was unfaithful to Lisa and is unaware that they are dating again. We also have ex-gangster King (Melvin Gregg), Shanika (X Mayo), and nerd Clifton (Jermaine Fowler), who seems to have been invited by mistake.

After getting a sense of the characters and the relationships between them, our seven party attendees (those not shot by crossbow bolts or otherwise abducted) are going to end up in the game room and will be forced to play The Blackening. The stakes are going to be immediately high and terrifying—get 10 questions right, and their friend Morgan survives. Get one wrong and she dies. And eventually, everyone is going to have to make some difficult choices.

Naturally, our crew is going to try to find a way to fight back. They are going to be aided, or perhaps not by a park ranger named Ranger White (Diedrich Bader), who could be very sensitive to racial issues or might be allied with the person or people hunting the party attendees.

The Blackening is a horror comedy, and it is one of those rare films that gets the balance pretty close to right. It skews more to the humor in a lot of cases. There are some genuinely upsetting moments in this in the sense that a crossbow is the killer’s weapon of choice, and there are some very sudden moments of people getting attacked. It is, however, also very strong on the comedy. I don’t think I laughed out loud at this, but I genuinely found a lot of it funny, and it helps that the humor doesn’t come at the expense of the characters, but in character for them. The humor works because it understands the characters rather than looking down on them.

As the name of the film suggests, the main case of The Blackening is Black. There are only a couple of white characters. This is a movie where a lot of the humor comes from the racial aspects of the characters and the situation. When the characters at one point have to decide who is the most Black among them, we’re going to dive into stereotypes, many of which will be about the white traits that each of them have.

Because of this, there are going to be people who are going to be very upset by this movie. Anyone who looks at the world desperate to be outraged by something that is “woke” are going to look at this movie and wonder why the white characters are not immediately trusted and are definitely the suspects of being the killers. If that’s going to be a problem for you, this is not a movie for you. Frankly, this is not really a blog for you and I don’t know why you are here.

There’s a lot here to like, and a lot of that is the knowing winks it offers to movies that have similar themes. There are references to Get Out, for instance, which is an obvious choice, but it does have shades of Jumanji and Ready or Not as well. The movie does this knowingly—it winks at these connections without making it obvious or hanging a lampshade on it. It’s done in the right way. I also like that there is a real threat to the characters here, but it never loses that this is a comedy even before it’s a horror movie.

Why to watch The Blackening: Combines the best elements of some other movies into one package.
Why not to watch: If you use “woke” as a pejorative, you won’t like this.


  1. Woke... what a stupid term that was created. I might check this out as I like dumb shit like this.

    1. The original meaning of "woke" was about awareness of racism. It's (naturally) the political right that has taken a shit on it.

  2. I hate how much the term "woke" has changed meaning (or rather, people just using it incorrectly) I'll have to check this out.

    1. I'm with you on that. If anyone calls me "woke" as an insult, I take it as a compliment.