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The Blackening Review: A Hilarious Spin on the Slasher Genre

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There is an art to satire, a delicate balance between making a statement and providing a laugh, and Tim Story’s “The Blackening” teeters on that tightrope with an acrobat’s agility. Bursting from the genre’s shadows, it is a hearty salute to Black culture and storytelling, a fiery retort to the antiquated and often whitewashed tropes of horror movies. Yet, it remains a robust comedy that laughs in the face of horror and satire, more concerned with cracking a joke than splattering blood.

Reuniting a decade later, a group of college friends aims to recreate an epic Juneteenth celebration in an ominously familiar horror-grade cabin in the woods. The tension escalates as a maniacal game titled “The Blackening” puts their lives and their knowledge of Black culture on the line. Echoes of previous horror classics such as “Scream” and “Saw” are neatly sewn into the narrative, all while it retains its own unique identity.

A significant strength of “The Blackening” lies in the exceptional ensemble cast who execute punchlines with the unerring accuracy of a skilled archer, amid a backdrop of chaos and murder. Characters spring to life under the film’s comedic lens, their sparkling personalities and camaraderie a joy to behold. Yet, while the film excels at comedy, it falters in horror. Its preoccupation with humor often undermines the suspense, diluting the chills and thrills that make horror comedies so appealing.

Perhaps most importantly, “The Blackening” gleefully, and bitingly, pokes fun at social commentary and stereotypes. It takes the often oversimplified portrayal of Black characters in mainstream horror and upends it, replacing it with an authentic, nuanced, and predominantly Black narrative. This film not only challenges the stereotype of “The Black Character” always dying first but does so while evoking a laugh, cleverly weaving critique with comedy.

However, the narrative flags as it reaches its climax. While it enters with a bang, it concludes with more of a whimper, revealing the film’s somewhat shaky foundations. The film’s keen interest in mockery tends to overshadow its story structure, which may leave some feeling underwhelmed by the time the credits roll.

Yet, these minor shortcomings are just that – minor. They don’t eclipse the film’s strengths or the significance of its message. “The Blackening” is bold and irreverent, daring to rewrite the traditional horror narrative with a much-needed dose of reality, all while maintaining a buoyant sense of humor.

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“The Blackening” is a confident stride into new territory. It’s a deftly executed satire, a mockery with a message, and a riotous comedy against a backdrop of horror. While it doesn’t quite manage to hit the mark as a horror film, its strengths as a comedy and as a potent piece of social commentary more than compensate for this weakness. While not perfect, it’s a journey that’s worth taking, not just for the laughs, but for the fresh perspective and piercing satire it offers along the way.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

The Blackening is now playing in theaters.

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