‘The Blackening’ Is The Black AF Horror Satire We’ve Been Waiting For

Be prepared to scream at the screen.

It’s about time more than one Black person makes it to the end of a horror flick! Then again, The Blackening ain’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill horror flick. It’s more suspense, thriller, dramedy, heavy on comedy, and Black AF!

The Blackening has a cast filled with all Black leads, and immediately, we’re somewhere we’ve never been before, and it feels good. The group of friends: Grace Byers (Allison), Sinqua Walls (Nnamdi), Melvin Gregg (King), Dewayne Perkins (Dewayne), Antoinette Robertson (Lisa), X Mayo (Shanika) and Jermaine Fowler (Clifton) have gathered for a fun and free Juneteenth weekend getaway. When they can’t seem to find their friends Morgan (Yvonne Orji) and Shawn (Jay Pharoah), but stumble on their cabin’s game room and creepy Black-faced board game, all hell breaks loose, literally! They’re forced to play the game of proving their Blackness to save their friends' lives.

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Based on a sketch by writer and star Dewayne Perkins, The Blackening cleverly taps into Black culture's nuances and pulls out cackles throughout the film. There are moments where you’re yelling at the Black characters for doing things white characters are historically and frustratingly known to do in horror movies. Still, there are also moments of Black women swimming, wigs slipping, and saving the day by any means necessary, and it’s gory and glorious. BET chatted with the writer, director, and cast of The Blackening to understand why this movie was so good and how each actor received their own “Blackenings” from their parents. Congratulations! I was ready not to like this, but I cackled the whole time! In every scary movie, we hoot and holler what we woulda coulda shoulda done and these characters were doing things we usually yell at white people for: splitting up, checking on noises, whispering loud as hell…Why?

Tracy Oliver: I thought we still made them stick together and make certain choices that I would see white characters not do. But, we got to have a movie, and we got to have some shenanigans happen. We had to make them make certain choices. And then also, because Dewayne and I are very silly comedy writers, our comedy brains sometimes would undercut the horror, because we'd want to put a joke in the middle of suspense or in the middle of them hiding. And yeah, that would go against their survival instincts on the one hand, but we were also playing to the comedic side of it as well. And I think we were constantly going back and forth between comedy and suspense because we knew we wanted the movie to be funny, too. And I'm also curious, I know, I'm not supposed to ask you questions, but why were you ready to not love it? I was ready to roll my eyes at all the raisins in the potato salad jokes…

Tracy Oliver: We often say this movie had no business being good. It does seem like that's what you would do with it, that you would take a short and then do a bunch of, like, easy “Black people don't like blah, blah, blah” jokes and then call it a movie. But we really were trying to aim higher for that. And then Tim [Story] had the audacity to take it seriously as a director as well. [laughs] And so it turned into a better movie than it should have been.

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Tim Story: Well, that's what was fun about making this movie. There's a love for the culture, and there's a love that we maintained throughout. It was important for me for the process to be that. This is made by Black people, with Black people. There was never a time when we had to be limited by what we were thinking or that we had to put it through a filter. We could talk about what we wanted to do and as Tracy has said a million times, ‘Are they really gonna let us do this?’ And my thing throughout this process was to be sure it remained authentic, it remained something for us. And we weren't going to apologize about it. We weren't going to sugarcoat it. We were going to make it as true as we thought it should be. We took it quite seriously. We wanted to make it enjoyable, but at the same time, there are a lot of interesting conversations that go through this, and none of them are accidental. We made this thing like we wanted to make it, and we're very proud of it. I love the title, The Blackening. Being that our own “Blackenings” often come from our parents being the ushers of blackness into our worlds, I would love for you to think back on your childhood and share something your parents gave you, like some advice to know as a Black person that kind of added into you “Blackening” as a person.

Grace Byers: My mom raised myself and my sister and she was really at the intersectionality of so many things: a single mom, deaf, Black, superwoman, and she really taught me just how others might see you as different and a standout and not so good in a way, a black sheep in some ways, [and] to just embrace your enoughness in those rooms and in those spaces.

My mom also taught me how to be extremely aware, which I think is very pervasive and Black culture. We are so aware. We're aware of people, of other things, we're aware if we're too loud or too soft. The decisions that we make publicly are cognizant decisions. I find that heightened awareness is almost one of the keys to our survival. And I think that it is very inherent in Black culture—something my mom always taught me growing up as a young girl and something that I am not sure other cultures have.

Sinqua Walls: My grandmother, who I'm so grateful for, she's a pillar of who I am as a man. As a Black man in society, I think you're faced with all this oppression, right? This idea of who you need to be, what you need to conform to, or what your sexuality needs to be. And my grandmother, when I was going through and transitioning different spaces in my life, she came to me she said, ‘Bby, it don't matter if they Black, white, gay, straight, purple, yellow or green, if they fuck with you, fuck with them if they don't fuck with you, fuck them.’ That's a testament to my blackness. I take everyone in, and it doesn't matter what color or culture you are. That's my “blackening,” the fact that my grandmother gave me that when I was young.

Dewayne Perkins: When I was a kid, about fifth grade, I came back home and I said, ‘Mom, was n*gga mean?’ And my mom goes, ‘Who called you that? Was he white or Black?’ And I was like, ‘Black dude.’ And she goes, ‘Oh, it means friend.’

My mother said, ‘Hey, you're like a young Black man, you have to be as smart as possible. You just have to know as much as you can because everything will be used against you.’ And I was like,’Damn, okay, let me go read a book!’ I try to be as smart as I can. As I got older, I just realized what that means, preparing yourself for the world that you live in. And that was something that was so fundamentally told to me at such a young age. You have to be better.

Antoinette Robertson: My mother always taught me that there are going to be rooms that I walk into, and there are going to be people who are going to want to treat me as less than, and that I should always know my worth no matter what. No matter who chooses me, it doesn't matter. I need to always choose myself and believe in myself.

X Mayo: With my dad, when I would always complain about being cold, he would say ‘You know it’s because we ain’t supposed to be here!’ And I said, ‘What?’ He was like, ‘We supposed to be in Africa.’ He always had so many elephants around. And I was like, ‘Dad, why do we have so many elephants?’ And he was like, ‘Because it means good luck and good fortune in Africa.’

My mom's Mexican, but she had all Black girlfriends. I'm so grateful that she heeded their instructions when it came to how to raise me. When I had my quinceanera and we went to go get my doll, the girl looked white and had straight hair. My mom was like, ‘Didn’t I tell you that my daughter is Black? She is not white. This hair is not like her hair, and her eyes are not blue. So to see somebody who was not Black that was so adamant about me being proud of my Blackness just encouraged me to feel it even more.

Melvin Gregg: My mom is mixed, half Black, half white, but all of her brothers and sisters are Black and my mom looks white. So she was the oddball in the family and the community. She had to really fight for her Blackness. She's like super Black, but looks like a white lady. Like, if you just heard her on the phone before you saw her, you would be confused. Then me growing up with that being my mom in a community where everybody's Black, I felt like I had to be a little rougher than most to reclaim it.

Jay Pharoah: I’ve got a similar origin story because my mother's light-skinned and me, my sister and my dad are chocolate, right? So when I was four-years-old, I stared at my mom for a minute and a half and she was like, ‘Jared, why are you staring at me?’ And I was like, ‘Ma, are you white?’ And she was just like, ‘No, there are all types of Black people. I'm just light skinned.’ And that always played in my mind. I was like, Okay, so there's more of us out here. Just because you ain’t chocolate doesn't mean that you ain't with the culture! Yes to Black women for saving the day in life, but especially in this movie, no spoiler!

Antoinette Robertson: We did that!

Grace Byers: Every single one of us did too! It was very invigorating, and cathartic in a lot of ways.

Antoinette Robertson: It's nice to be able to show the vulnerability of that character and also her strength, and those things are not mutually exclusive in Black women. It was just so much fun to play. All the fun that you saw and experienced, we had while we were making it, and hopefully, we get to share that with an audience on June 16.

The Blackening opens nationwide on June 16th.

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