This spring, theaters will fill to watch Dewayne Perkins, Melvin Gregg, Sinqua Walls, Yvonne Orji, and more hilariously decipher which “Blackest” member of their friend group will survive a killer.
Directed by Tim K. Story and written by Tracy Oliver and Perkins, The Blackening is a horror-comedy that explores various racial tropes through “seven Black friends who go away for Juneteenth weekend, only to find themselves trapped in a cabin with a killer.”
The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and is based on the 2018 Comedy Central digital short of the same name. The viral clip mocked the stereotype that Black characters always die first in horror movies. However, with The Blackening, one new question is raised: What happens when every character is Black? Story, Oliver, and Perkins spoke with VIBE about how the film tackles representation and stereotypes in hilarious ways that still uplift the culture.
“I think that filming the film and then being able to watch it and remembering the amount of joy that was had when filming, and seeing how well it translated on the screen is something I will never forget,” Perkins said. “I think that that is what makes the movie good because you see these people who are actual friends. I remember going through the process of filming and being like, ‘Oh, every day I’m getting closer to these people.'”
In addition, Oliver expressed, “I think for me, there’s a whole scene that I guess we took from Dewayne’s original sketch, where it was how everybody was defining themselves and how Black they are in different ways or how not Black they are. But what I think is really cool about the movie is that even though they are all distinctly different Black characters in different ways, they all have this united front and solidarity throughout the movie.”
Speaking to typical horror films where division is created amongst characters who only want to save themselves, the Girls Trip writer continued, “I think that’s refreshing because I think a lot of times in a lot of horror movies, you see there’s a lot of division or people make selfish choices or do stuff that saves themselves but not the others.”
“There’s this sense of solidarity even though they’re beefing and fighting each other, but it’s all love,” she added. They’re family and they’re friends, and you see throughout the movie that they make choices to save the group versus themselves. I think that’s what’s cool about it.”
For Story, being behind the camera while watching the entire story come to life has been the best part of this project.
“I love the fact that people will be able to come back and in the future think, ‘Hey, what’s a Black horror movie that had all Black characters and they didn’t die and all of this?’” he said. “They’ll look to The Blackening, and that’s cool to think about.”
Aside from writing the comedy, Perkins also tackles Black representation with his portrayal of a gay male best friend who is far more than a “tool for jokes.”
“The portrayal of queer Black people in media — there’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” expressed the comedian who identifies with the LGBTQIA community. “Often, they are used as tools for jokes and not as fully developed characters with depth. To be able to expand the ‘gay best friend trope’ into a character — so that it’s no longer a trope, but a person, a full person — was very important to me.”
“Particularly because it is within an all-Black space – giving space to queerness that is equal and not talked down upon or used in ways that aren’t for the betterment of that identity,” he added. “I feel like my character, in particular, is that bi**h, very literally (laughs). So I think that was something that was very intentional, and I hope when people watch it, that they see why my character exists and the importance of the character and queer people in Black culture.”
As The Blackening awaits its upcoming premiere, the 30-something actor and writer is already thinking about his next film endeavors and who he could see being his on-screen parents.
“I think that there are other facets of horror within the genre that I think would be interesting to explore. Like supernatural,” he pondered. “I also have this vision where I want Marlon Wayans and Regina Hall to play my parents just because I’m like, ‘Oh, this is for me, the content that I’ve absorbed throughout my life.’ Knowing the inspiration that they’ve had on me personally and this movie, I think that would be a full circle moment for me. So I’m putting that in the universe.”
The horror-comedy also stars Antoinette Robertson, X Mayo, Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Jay Pharoah, and James Preston Rogers. The Blackening premieres this Juneteenth (June 16). Watch its new official trailer below.