Welcome To The Blumhouse: Black Box
Amazon Prime’s Welcome To the Blumhouse film series kicks off this week. Black Box is among the first releases, bringing a techno-based psychological thriller. But is it worth adding to your watchlist?
Black Box is the debut film from director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. and tells the story of Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) who’s recovering from a traumatic car accident. The accident, which claimed the life of his wife, has left him with amnesia and unable to remember simple/basic tasks; something that makes caring for his younger daughter far more difficult.
As he struggles to get his life back on track, he ultimately meets up with Dr. Lillian (Phylicia Rashad) who’s experimental technology, the “black box” shows promise in repairing the damage to his brain in order to bring back memories.
As he begins the treatment, memories from his past begin to slowly come back, but things aren’t quite lining up. As more memories come into focus, Nolan begins to wonder if the memories he’s recalling are really his afterall. Even worse, a strange creature seems to be stalking him through his own memories and affecting his actions in the real world…
It’s tough to talk much more about the story beyond that, as that would take us well into spoiler territory. There are a couple major twists in the film that I don’t want to ruin here, so I won’t get into any more story details.
The film borrows from a handful of different films to bring it’s story together. There are definite Get Out vibes, along with shades of Inception and even Eternal Sunshine sprinkled throughout. Hell, there’s even some old-school J-Horror going on with the weird, bone-crunching, backwards walking creature with no face. It manages to combine these concepts in a way that feels different, yet weirdly derivative as well.
I know, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s tough to explain. In some ways, the way this story comes together feels like it’s putting a fresh spin on the concepts of memory and the subconscious at least in the kind of story being told. On the other hand, Black Box does little to actually expand on these story concepts. Instead they play out exactly as you expect them to once certain plot points click into place.
If you’re looking for an outright horror film, this isn’t it. Black Box is more about messing with your mind than trying to scare you. For the most part, it manages to pull on your heartstrings more than anything. This isn’t a bad thing in general, but makes it a tougher sell as a horror/psychological thriller.
The cast does an excellent job throughout the film. On top of bringing realistic performances that help ground the story, they serve as the much needed emotional anchor that keeps you engaged throughout the movie...because it’s a bit of a slow start.
This is probably what stands out to me most. Black Box takes its time getting around to the meat of the story. It’s not really until about mid-way through that the plot itself began to suck me in with some of it’s ideas. Yet, as soon as it got to a point where it could have explored some truly fresh territory, it ends. And it ends in a way that feels a bit predictable.
The Purge series, Happy Death Day series, The Belko Experiment, and 50% of the "Into The Dark" movies available on Hulu.
Then there are the movies that I hated: Insidious (all), Sinister (both), Paranormal Activity (all), Fantasy Island (literally the worst movie I've seen from them), oh and the other 50% of the "Into The Dark" movies available on Hulu.
So I'm always on the fence when it comes to anything from Blumhouse, but Black Box was honestly a pretty good one. It did have a very heavy Get Out vibe to it, which to me is not a bad thing. Mamoudou Athie as Nolan did a great job as the dad recovering from his accident and trying to get his memories back, the one person who really threw me off was the little girl who played his daughter Ava (Amanda Christine). this little girl at one point had me wondering if his waking moments were part of a fantasy world and that his interactions with her were actually with someone else. To top it off we have Phylicia Rashad as the "Mad Scientist" whose invention might be the key to helping a man regain his forgotten past life or destroying him altogether.
While I would be a tad harsher if it were a big-screen release, for an Amazon Prime film it is worth a watch if you're just clicking thru your many streaming services trying to find something to pass the time.