The Blackening is one horror film where you can bet that a Black person makes it to the end. Directed by Tim Story (Barbershop, Ride Along), the horror comedy is a satirical take on modern horror films.
Emmy-Award nominated actor, writer and comedian DeWayne Perkins stars in the project and serves as the film’s co-writer, along with Tracy Oliver.
Shadow and Act spoke with the trio behind the comedy-horror ahead of the trailer debut, which you can view below.
The film also stars Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, Grace Byers, X Mayo, Melvin Gregg, Jermaine Fowler, Yvonne Orji, Jay Pharoah and James Preston Rogers.
The plot centers around a group of all-Black friends that have gathered at a cabin in the woods for the weekend. The friends find a board game set up by a murderer who forces them to rank themselves in order of their blackness, so he can determine the correct order in which to kill them.
The film asks the cynical question: If everyone in the horror movie is Black, who dies first?
The inspiration for the film came from a 2018 3Peat comedy sketch poking fun at the fact that Black people rarely make it past the opening credits.
Perkins’ viral skit caught Oliver’s eye, and the two began working on some very Black movie magic.
He spoke about the kindred moment he got the call after watching Girls Trip.
“She hit me up and said, ‘hey, this could be a movie. Do you want to do it?’ So from there, Tim came on as a producer and Tracy and I worked to expand it from a skit to a feature.”
The feature was a hit at the Toronto International Film Festival, launching a bidding war, won by Lionsgate.
“He [Story] really championed our vision and helped build the film into what it is today,” said Perkins.
With such extensive resumes and a great head start, the three agreed that transitioning the skit into a film was an uncomplicated task.
“I was a producer on it at first, and they delivered this script that was funny as…I won’t cuss, but it was incredibly funny,” the director said. “Seeing the short and then seeing what they did with the script, I knew it would be something.”
Story added, “I’m at the point to where if I read a script that makes me laugh out loud and I have the chance to get behind the camera and shoot it. I’m going to do it.”
He also mentioned the most important thing to him as a director was to protect the voices of the writers and make sure the film ended up as authentic as they wrote it.
Oliver echoed the fact that the film’s authenticity is what will make it stand out. “I just thought it was funny, and the characters were so smart,” she said. “I think around that time, Get Out had made Black people grow into that genre [horror] space. And I thought this was a chance for us to do something unique.”
She continued, “Usually, you see horror movies centered around white people and Black people are just folded within. I love that Dewayne had a bunch of Black people that were all different from each other that were the center of this movie. I was thinking, are they all going to die? I just loved the concept.”
Oliver’s assistance in character development and script adaptations went along perfectly with Perkins’ idea to return Black people to the comedic side of horror.
“I started in sketch comedy. So satire, parody, and my love for the genre [horror], allowed me to see there was already a natural comedy in it. Combining reality and the fantasy of horror would make me think about what my friends and I do in these situations.”
Perkins stated that those small thoughts are where comedy can come from.
“It’s almost like putting the people who watch the movies into the movies,” he said. “If they are the ones that yell out, ‘don’t go in that room,’ if you put them in the movie, they won’t go in that room!”
The broad spectrum of personalities within the film allows viewers to pick someone they can relate to, and someone they think can bite the dust.
Perkins hopes viewers see the blurred space where comedy and horror meet.
“You can scream and then immediately laugh after. I think culturally Black people deal with a lot of horrors through laughter. So, again, you will scream, but you will also laugh.”
While Perkins hopes viewers realize the duality of horror and comedy, Oliver and Story want fans to see just how Black the film is.
“This may have been the blackest thing I’ve ever done and that says a lot because I only do Black stuff,” Oliver said and laughed, as she attributed that freedom to do true Black comedy to the director. “He didn’t make us water it down. He wasn’t focused on making it palatable for the masses, and he let us be unapologetic about it. So I hope people see that we actually went there.”
Story summed it up, stating the film’s goal is to be something for Black people.
“We will understand the jokes and feel seen, and we really didn’t care if anyone else understands it. And it’s fun to make art like that.”
The film will open in theatres nationwide on Juneenth Weekend 2023.
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