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Tim Story
Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg
Writing Credits:
Dewayne Perkins, Tracy Oliver

Old college friends reunite for the weekend and end up trapped in a cabin with a killer who has a vendetta.

Box Office:
$5 million.
Opening Weekend
$6,013,131 on 1775 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby Atmos
Spanish Dolby 5.1
English Descriptive Audio
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 8/22/2023

• Audio Commentary with Director Tim Story, Actor/Writer Dewayne Perkins and Writer Tracy Oliver
• “Do the Write Thing” Featurette
• “They Can’t All Talk First” Featurette
• “Shall We Play a Game?” Featurette
• “Cabin in the Woods” Featurette
• “Who’s the Blackest? Game Show” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• Outtakes
• Trailer


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The Blackening [Blu-Ray] (2023)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 30, 2023)

As the old cliché goes, Black characters always die first in horror movies. 2023’s horror-comedy The Blackening confronts the concept of what happens when a scary flick comes with a completely Black cast.

10 years after graduation, a group of old college friends gather at a secluded cabin to celebrate Juneteenth over a long weekend. As they explore the facility, they find a creepy – and overtly racist – board game called “The Blackening”.

When they play, they find it offers more than just the same old escapade, as a malevolent hidden figure threatens to kill them if they don’t complete various challenges. At the core: only the “Blackest” of the bunch will survive.

Based on its trailers, I thought Blackening would offer a twist on the self-aware/self-parody nature of the Scream franchise. This looked clever and enticed me to my local multiplex.

When the movie started, I encountered the scariest notion of all: “A Tim Story Film”. Okay, I admit that references to Story’s presence behind the camera as terrifying exaggerate, but I can say that the realization Story directed the flick immediately impacted my expectations.

While not a bad filmmaker, Story tends to go lowest common denominator. He takes potentially strong properties and transforms them into bland and mushy cinematic fare.

Did Story’s MO hold true for Blackening? To some degree, as I can’t help but think another director would’ve brought more bite to it, but the flick still works for the most part.

Blackening exists in the post-Get Out cinematic universe. It both toys with horror conventions and digs into racial commentary along the line.

Jordan Peele proved more incisive with his 2017 hit, as Blackening tends toward a more superficial view of racial dimensions. It largely plays these concepts for laughs and it lacks much punch or insight.

Still, Blackening comes with a clever concept, and it musters enough charge to keep us with it – much of the way, at least. The film gets in most of its hits during its first half.

The longer it runs, the more Blackening shifts from its status as a horror satire into a more standard thriller. While the movie still comes with some of the racial/social notes, these fade to a large degree as the flick embraces its scares.

Which seems fine, but it means the movie loses a lot of its unusual side. As Blackening goes more traditional, it feels more pedestrian.

A solid cast helps, at least. While the actors play up the stereotypes intentionally built into their roles, they nonetheless bring good dimensionality to their parts and add spark to the tale.

Blackening doesn’t live up to high expectations, and it could use a bit more bite. That said, it comes with enough cleverness and wit to generally work.

Footnote: a tag scene pops early in the end credits. It breaks into two segments and nothing else appears after that.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

The Blackening appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect strong visuals here.

Sharpness always worked well. Nary a sliver of real softness impacted this tight, accurate presentation.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws failed to become a factor.

Much of the palette leaned toward a heavy sense of amber, with some teal as well. The hues came across as well-depicted within stylistic choices.

Blacks felt deep and dense, while low-light shots displayed appealing clarity. This turned into a solid presentation.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack added oomph to the proceedings, as the soundscape opened up matters in a positive manner. Music offered nice breadth and filled the channels in a consistent manner.

With a mix of lively fright scenes, the soundfield offered a few chances for fireworks, and it used them well. Various “action beats” appeared in addition to basic scares and created an involving impression.

Audio quality appeared good, with speech that came across as natural and distinctive. Effects also seemed accurate and tight, with clear reproduction of these components.

Music worked well, as the songs/score boasted solid range and dimensionality. This became a more than satisfactory track for the film.

When we move to extras, we begin with an audio commentary from director Tim Story, actor/writer Dewayne Perkins and actor Tracy Oliver. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the project’s roots and path to the screen, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, influences, and related domains.

At their best, the participants deliver a good array of notes connected to the movie. However, these insights come with a whole lot of praise and happy talk as well, so expect a mixed bag from the commentary.

A mix of featurettes follow, and Do the Write Thing runs 13 minutes, 32 seconds. It offers notes from Perkins, Oliver, Story, producer Jason Clark, and actors Antoinette Robinson, X Mayo, Jermaine Fowler, Grace Byers, Yvonne Orji, Melvin Gregg, Sinqua Walls and Jay Pharoah.

“Thing” examines Perkins’ 2018 Blackening short film and its adaptation to feature length as well as what brought Story to the project and his impact, cast and performances. Some of this repeats from the commentary but we get a good overview nonetheless.

They Can’t All Talk First spans eight minutes, 53 seconds. It involves X Mayo, Walls, Story, Oliver, Pharoah, Robinson, Gregg, Fowler and Perkins.

They discuss movie-related topics like “favorite Kool-Aid flavor” and “how will you celebrate the opening of The Blackening?” in this fluffy piece. I like the way the program plops all these folks in one place, but it doesn’t offer much more than a few laughs.

Next comes Shall We Play a Game?, a three-minute, 50-second piece. This one offers info from Oliver, Story, and Fowler.

“Play” tells us about the creation of the movie’s titular board game. It offers a short but useful overview.

Cabin in the Woods spans three minutes, 11 seconds and features Story and set decorator Bryant Berry.

As expected, “Woods” looks at the main set and location. It gives us decent info about that topic.

After this we find Who’s the Blackest? Game Show. It fills 11 minutes, 28 seconds, with Story, Gregg, Pharoah, Perkins and Robertson on one team and X Mayo, Walls, Oliver and Fowler on the other.

Like the title implies, the participants must answer questions to “test their Blackness”. It uses a Family Feud-style framework and becomes amusing.

A Deleted Scene goes for one minute, 23 seconds and shows Dwayne as he does the “Aunt Viv Dance” from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It lacks much to make it especially compelling.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get four minutes, 30 seconds of Outtakes. It mostly shows goofs/giggles, but some improv lines add value.

With Tim Story as director, I feared The Blackening would become a tacky, dumbed-down horror satire. While I think another filmmaker might have made something stronger, Story still delivers a pretty engaging mix of comedy and scary movie. The Blu-ray brings strong visuals, solid audio and a roster of bonus materials. Though not a classic, Blackening mostly achieves its goals.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
1 3:
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