REVIEW: ‘Black Box’ Dives Deep

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BLACK BOX
Mamoudou Athie as Nolan in BLACK BOX

The theme of this week’s “Welcome to the Blumhouse” is parental love, and what lengths parents go to for their children. If you’re unfamiliar with the programming from Amazon Studios and Blumhouse, “Welcome to the Blumhouse” is comprised of four unsettling genre films that are thematically connected. The first two are The Lie and Black Box, you can head here for a full review of the former, which showcased the lengths parents will go through to protect their child from the consequences of their actions here. Now, in Black Box, we get a science fiction horror film that pushes the viewer to question reality just as much as it pushes its protagonist to.

Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. and scripted by Osei-Kuffour Jr. and Stephen Herman, Black Box stars Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola, Charmaine Bingwa, and Troy James. The film centers on Nolan, a man who has lost his memory along with his wife in a car accident. Now a single father, Nolan has to try to piece his life back together through fragments of his memories that come and go all while trying to take care of his daughter. But as he tries to move towards normalcy things begin to slip. He forgets his daughter at school. He hits a wall and injures his hand. And he even forgets the small rituals that he has with his daughter like buckling her in.

From small to big, Nolan is desperate to become whole again, to remember his wife, his life, and most importantly, his daughter. To do so, Nolan seeks help from Dr. Carter, undergoing an agonizing experimental treatment called the black box. Meant to stimulate the parts of his brain that are missing the pieces of his memory loss, he agrees to put himself through it. But, slowly, as he enters his subconscious and is met with violence and a horrifying specter, he begins to question who he really is.

Black Box
Amanda Christine as Ava and Mamoudou Athie as Nolan in BLACK BOX

In Black Box, Osei-Kuffour Jr. does a lot to blend science fiction with horror. The science of the film is focused on memory and transporting the audience, and Nolan, into a new space deep inside his mind. Almost immediately, Dr. Carter begins to take on the archetype of the “mad scientist,” speaking of science in a way that surpasses how we view the world and neglecting the pain that Nolan goes through during treatments. That said, once in his mind, the faceless specter that lashes out at him physically offers up an element of body horror that sings. The contortion of the specter’s body is unsettling, uncanny, and hits hard when we first see it. Executed by the talented Troy James, this character showcases a physicality of fear that works well. That said, the more its used as the only element of inducing fear, it begins to lose effect.

Additionally, if you’re familiar with Blumhouse anthologies, you can feel the twist brewing from the first act. While this isn’t a bad thing, Black Box’s execution of a familiar ending isn’t as strong as its lead up to it. That said, this film offers up phenomenal acting and characters that draw you in. Athie’s ability to display emotion and embody different characters is superb and enough to leave me wanting him cast in as many horror titles as possible.

Overall, Black Box has a strong concept with slightly shaky execution. That said, the complexities it confronts in its big reveal are well done and will be cathartic for some viewers. Osei-Kuffour Jr. has crafted a film well-worth watch and fits perfectly into Blumhouse’s filmography.

Black Box is available now exclusively on Amazon Prime.


  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Overall, Black Box has a strong concept with slightly shaky execution. That said, the complexities it confronts in its big reveal are well done and will be cathartic for some viewers. Osei-Kuffour Jr. has crafted a film well-worth watch and fits perfectly into Blumhouse’s filmography.