Home Reviews Films Movie Review: BLACKENING: The soulful satire of slasher movies delivers more than just laughs [Tribeca 2023]

Movie Review: BLACKENING: The soulful satire of slasher movies delivers more than just laughs [Tribeca 2023]

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Movie Review: BLACKENING: The soulful satire of slasher movies delivers more than just laughs [Tribeca 2023]

The Blackening Tribeca

Blackening review

EXPULSION (2022) Movie review BY 22nd anniversary Tribeca Film Festivalor movie run by Tim Storywritten by Tracy Oliver AND Dewayne Perkinsand playing Antoinette Robertson, Dewayne Perkins, Sinqua Walls, Grace Byers, May X, Melvin Gregg, Jermaine Fowler, Yvonne Orji, Jay PharoahAND James Preston Rogers.

A wicked satire on slasher films satirizes the tropes in slasher films as well as our current political and cultural climate in EXPULSION.

An all-black cast shines in this film that forgives slasher films and goes a few steps further, ignoring today’s trends and fads, and even fooling itself. But perhaps the most satisfying aspect of this film is the enjoyment of the actors in the game for all its worth. Even better, the cast members are consummate professionals. As such, they play off each other in such rapid-fire rapport, deep improvisation seems as natural as breathing.

We can see a number of references to other films right away, and the filmmakers don’t hesitate to exploit them in any way. The basic premise involves a group of friends meeting at a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway. A couple arrives far ahead of the others and they fall victim to ‘The Blackening’, a board game they encounter in what the placard on the door proclaims to be ‘the game room’.

Among the guests is the usual atmosphere of jokey discord that we usually see in these films: gossip and backbiting, the weirdo, former friends struggling to reconcile, and so on. And there’s a gas stop on the way; the local gas station and convenience store is patronized by a demanding and creepy Cracker who radiates hillbilly antagonism.

This board game is similar in design to the one seen in Jumanji. But instead of written warnings navigating a portal, this game is fully interactive. The embossed plastic face of a pikanin, who they handily refer to – I kid you not – as ‘Sambo’, who engages in discourse and inflicts gruesome deaths on those who refuse to participate.

When the questions themselves are asked, a table timer starts ticking away. Some of them are multiple choice, others are fill in the blank. Some questions are racially related; for example, which actor and/or character appeared in a black guest spot on an all-white television series. Others are a bit more specific to the slasher genre.

The more engaging challenges require the survivors to choose among themselves which one to sacrifice based on some silly, ambivalent criteria, but fueling the dispute is the whole point, resulting in some pretty ridiculous reasons for not making the grade. At one point, when debating which of them is ‘the blackest’, Clifton (the Husband) says: “I voted for Trump”.

The weakness in the film – but not a big one – lies in the climax and resolution, with unexpected twists that quickly pile up. The Big Reveal is a bit confusing by design. So far the only antagonist is the ‘Sambo’ version of Leatherface, shown on a 50’s TV dispatching the victims, but is actually part of a bait and switch.

The reason behind the vindictive payback in EXPULSION it might be a little confusing for some (like me), but that’s okay; the underlying silliness of this subgenre offers plenty of breadth and enjoyment. (However, this narrative safety net does not always work; the hunger games, would that be cheating hunger games – which practically begs for satire—missed by a country mile.)

The best thing about slasher satires in general, and EXPULSION in particular, it’s the sense of perspective that brand of humor provides. Standing on principle to decide the fate of others is one thing, but it serves as a reminder that what really matters is how we treat each other as we go about our day, and EXPULSION it does so in spades.

ASSESSMENT: 9/10

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