- Jared Huizenga
They Might be Mimes, but Vampires Work in ‘Black as Night’
In the horror world, vampires are pretty low on the totem pole – coming in somewhere between killer donuts (it’s a thing) and a demonic VCR (also a thing).
Since vampires are essentially the mimes of horror, I wasn’t sure what to think about their inclusion in the first wave of films for this year’s ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ anthology series on Amazon Prime.
Surprisingly though, director Maritte Lee Go’s ‘Black as Night’ makes vampires much more fun and interesting than they have any right being.
Asjha Cooper, Abbie Gayle, Fabrizio Guido, and Mason Beauchamp star in ‘Black as Night.’ (Photo by Alan Markfield © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC)
It’s 15 years after Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, and a large number of residents – especially people of color and those living in impoverished neighborhoods – are still trying to put their lives back together.
Among them is teenager Shawna (Asjha Cooper), and her best friend, Pedro (Fabrizio Guido), both of whom have familial challenges. Shawna lives with her father and brother and has to make regular trips to a sketchy part of town to check in on her crack-addicted mother. Pedro has a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in Texas but doesn’t feel he can leave his family behind – or at least that’s what he tells people.
One night after embarrassing herself in front of her crush, Chris (Mason Beauchamp), Shawna is attacked by what she believes are vampires. She lives to tell Pedro the tale, and after convincing her skeptical pal to believe her, the intrepid duo goes looking for proof. They find it, but not before discovering the coven feasts on the city’s homeless and drug addicted population … including Shawna’s mom.
Thirsty for revenge, Shawna again convinces Pedro to help her, while also recruiting Chris and a classmate, Granya (Abbie Gayle), who “specializes” in vampire knowledge gleaned from young adult novels, movies, and TV.
Overmatched and outnumbered, the quartet takes to the streets to save their community from a vampire invasion and find themselves in a battle bigger than they could even imagine.
Asjha Cooper and Derek Roberts star in ‘Black as Night.’ (Photo by Alfonso Bresciani © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC)
There’s not any one part of ‘Black as Night’ that stands out – the story is OK, the special effects are OK, and the acting is – you guessed it – OK. But somehow they come together to create something that is much better than just OK.
While it plays like an intentional “B Movie,” there’s something much bigger at play, with screenwriter Sherman Payne mixing over-the-top horror with social commentary on how marginalized communities are treated as expendable to the rest of the world around them. It’s a heavy topic, but it’s delivered in a manner where it fits the story and isn’t heavy-handed.
The acting, as I said, is OK, but it’s hard to say if it’s because the actors are just OK or if they are playing to the B nature of the film. Either way, they go for it with gusto, and it works for them.
Asjha Cooper and Fabrizio Guido star in ‘Black as Night.’ (Photo by Patti Perret © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC)
There are, however, some issues.
Shawna and her friends uncover the vampire problem way too easily, and they also come to a solution way too easily. It also feels a little ‘Dawson’s Creek’-lite with subplots like the relationship between Shawna and Chris, Pedro’s family, and the history of Shawna’s parents forced in without any real need or payoff to them – they feel like they’re there just for the sake of being there. Adding even 5 minutes to the 87-minute runtime could’ve tied up loose ends or provided the necessary justification for including them in the first place.
‘Black as Night’ isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but there are much worse options out there when you’re looking for “scary” movies to get you through October.
★★★½ of ★★★★★