Representation is not just a check on a grocery list; stories should reflect experiences and culture outside the default. Blumhouse has done this with previous horror films like Black Box. Now, Blumhouse is releasing a new slate of horror movies in time for spoopy and spooky season on Amazon Prime. First up is BLACK AS NIGHT, directed by Maritte Lee Go and written by Sherman Payne. The film stars Asjha Cooper (There’s Someone Inside Your House) as Shawna, a teen girl with confidence issues. She teams up with her best friend Pedro (Fabrizio Guido), her crush Chris (Mason Beauchamp), and quirky, white girl Grania (Abbie Gayle) to fight vampires preying on the disenfranchised in New Orleans. Although some parts fall flat, BLACK AS NIGHT highlights issues in the community through a spoopy, amusing story. And you can never go wrong with Keith David.
Shawna’s summer begins with promise. She and Pedro are sunbathing on a swanky rooftop in New Orleans. But Shawna avoids the sun, leaving most of her body covered and a bucket hat hiding her face because she doesn’t want to get any darker. Her insecurity over her dark skin is not unfounded when even her brother, Jamal, makes jokes about her dark skin, despite their father’s reprimands. Because of this, Shawna does not have the confidence to approach her crush beyond some stilted, embarrassing, and quick conversation before beating a hasty exit. Walking home alone, she gets attacked by a homeless vampire. As the story progresses, Shawna finds the strength to embrace herself and the community, including Ombreux projects.
I love how BLACK AS NIGHT handles poverty, homelessness, and colorism. They do not feel added in unnecessarily but are an essential part of the unfolding story. Poverty and homelessness are racial issues as well as class issues. Even people in our community tend to see projects rampant with homeless people, drugs, and crime, as locations to demolish, ignoring that for some, that is the only place they can live; as is the case with residents of Ombreux Housing. BLACK AS NIGHT makes the disenfranchised vulnerable to supernatural horrors, but displacement is the underlying horror and threat. The forgotten and cast aside are victims of displacement, murder, and abuse because they are invisible to society. This aspect of the film reminded me of Wolfen.
Another aspect of BLACK AS NIGHT is the regional community focus, complete with musical choices like Malik Ninety-Five, songwriter, producer, and rapper from New Orleans. BLACK AS NIGHT feels similar to Vampires vs. The Bronx, using a teenage horror-comedy to discuss weightier topics of disenfranchisement. While BLACK AS NIGHT is not as good, there is still enough here to make viewing worthwhile. The issues weave seamlessly in, and the story of a dark-skinned, Black teen girl learning to love herself and find her power is still in short supply.
The acting falters at times, varying from overly dramatic to rigid. Despite this, the film still holds attention; there’s more good than bad here. Keith David also adds an extra layer of joy to the film. Since The Thing, I’ve been a fan, and he surpassed expectations as Al Simmons in the 1997 animated series, Spawn.
BLACK AS NIGHT is a comical horror story with deeper issues lying under the surface. The predatory nature of vampirism does not hold a candle to society’s regard for Black people as objects; to be ignored or moved on a whim, and the darker their skin, the more objectified they become. BLACK AS NIGHT explores this with an entertaining, comical film about vampire battles in the summertime.