You ever watched one of those movies where you guess what is going on and what will happen the rest of the movie about a third of the way into it? And then once ALL of your predictions start coming true, one by one, even though the movie is still a half way decent one time watch, you kind of zone out a bit and you emotionally lose investment in the characters and what is happening on screen? That’s BLACK BOX, which is basically just Get Out (funny, because it’s from Blumhouse, the producers of that movie too) but on a much smaller, more personal scale and absolutely no racial undertones (in fact I think there was only one white character in this and she has about two lines). Yeah, I probably just gave a clue to many twists and turns within this film, but there is really no way to describe how I feel without hinting to you why I lost interest, even though there was nothing wrong with the execution of the story, what was wrong is that it didn’t go anywhere that other movies haven’t been to before. SSDD, Same Shit, Different Day. Black Box is part of a Blumhouse set of four ‘Welcome To The Blumhouse’ movies that the first two, where this and The Lie (reviewed it yesterday) came out Tuesday, and then Nocturne and Evil Eye come out next Tuesday. IMDB describes the movie with the following: “After losing his wife and his memory in a car accident, a single father undergoes an agonizing experimental treatment that causes him to question who he really is.” What really kind of irks me about the whole thing is that it stars one of my top ten favorite rising actors, Mamoudou Athie, and he’s just not getting the more than solid projects that he is capable of being masterful in. I mean…maybe in another two years, as he apparently has a substantial role in Jurassic World: Dominion?
And you know you always got to get into a blockbuster movie before you are offered other and better roles I guess nowadays. He has starred in much more smaller fare throughout his whole career. He was in Underwater that came out in January of this year, but he was in the film no more than 10 minutes before getting killed off. I know him from and started gaining keen interest into his career from one of his first independent feature debuts, called Patti Cakes, where he plays the weird love interest. He was also the only good thing about Brie Larson’s directorial debut Unicorn Store, and his best film so far, was earlier this year on Netflix, called Uncorked. Highly recommend you check either the latter out or Patti Cakes. He’s good in Black Box too, probably the best thing about the movie as it does stretch his range as an actor, it’s just the script and story around him is very plain and dry, so much so that the plot could be used in a beat by beat example in a Screenwriting For Dummies 101 book. The movie basically slaps you in the face early on of what is going on before it is revealed midway through, and the clues definitely could’ve been more subtle. I hate it when movies scream in your face in order for you to “get it” once it shows you it’s hand after the river card. Then once all is revealed, I pointed at the screen and said, “okay now this character is going to do this and this and this and this, and this other character is eventually going to come into the fray and do this and this and this and this, and then redemption story arc complete, obligatory sequel scene, end credits.” And I was 100% on the mark.
The film also stars Clarie Huxtable herself, Phylicia Rashad, and as the doctor trying to help this man gain his memories back she was adequate, but then once some things come into the light, she seemed a little too low key and under qualified for the role. Though maybe it’s just me on that one. The acting is good all around other than that, and when he enters the black box, his memory like sequences that come back to the protagonist are nice and creepy like any Blumhouse movie should be, there just wasn’t enough of them. There are only two, when there should’ve been 4 or 5, and the movie also should’ve been a bit longer than an hr and 40 minutes, where they could’ve saved the big reveal a little bit more than just halfway into it. They hired that dude that can contort his body all around to be an evil entity in the memory sequences, Troy James (used him better in the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark movie), there just wasn’t enough of him to make a creepy enough impact like he’s been in other movies. In summation, you’ve seen different iterations of this movie done plenty of times before, and done much better, which is probably why this film went straight to streaming instead of into theaters, regardless of the pandemic, in my opinion, it is where it needs to be. The film very much lags in the second half of the film when the protagonist goes to visit one of the people he sees in his unearthed memories. It was a 15 minute scene that needed to be about only half that. When you have a movie about trying to conjure up lost memories, you need just more than two for the audience to get emotionally invested with what is happening. Only two feels like a budgetary and screenwriting cop out, and for a movie titled Black Box, it was a little disappointing to open up and discover no surprises.