SXSW 2022: ‘Emergency’ Puts A Tense Yet Topical Spin On The College Party Film

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Emergency is an Amazon Original Film directed by Carey Williams and written by KD Davila. It’s Spring Break and roommates/best friends Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cyler) are getting ready to start a legendary party run. However, their plans take a turn for the worse when they return from class to find an unconscious white girl named Emma (Maddie Nichols) in their house. With the help of their roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon), Kunle and Sean take Emma to the hospital, running into a variety of obstacles along the way. To make matters worse, Emma’s sister Maddie (Sabrina Carpenter) is searching for her.

At first glance, this film seems like your regular “wild night out” film in the vein of Booksmart or Superbad. Kids want to go to a party, but are hampered by forces outside their control – it’s becoming a standard subgenre of the coming-of-age film. Emergency chooses to take a darker turn, focusing on what happens when two Black teens and their Hispanic roommate get in a situation that could literally get them killed. Kunle, being the more sheltered and naive friend, thinks that they should call 911 for Maddie while Sean (rightfully) points out that the police will probably shoot them dead if they walked in on them. Davila’s script only continues to escalate the danger, from a busted taillight to Emma freaking out and attacking the boys when she gains clarity.

Williams’ direction is not only a masterclass in how to build tension, but it’s also extremely clever in setting up social commentary about how Black men have to navigate a minefield of microaggressions in daily life. The opening sequence is a key expression of this, as one of Kunle and Sean’s teachers brings up the “N” word in class and puts them on the spot to discuss its impact. Williams also explores the double standards that some white people hold toward Black people; a family has a “Black Lives Matter” sign on their lawn and yet they assume the trio of boys is selling drugs. That’s not mentioning how Maddie goes full Karen; she refuses to listen to the guys’ explanation and even threatens to pepper spray them.

The film wouldn’t be where it is without Watkins and Cyler’s performances. They play off of each other extremely well; Watkins plays Kunle as mostly rational and nerdy, while Cyler serves as the realist. Cyler also continues his trend of delivering extremely hilarious bits of dialogue, which helps lighten the mood – he fulfilled a similar role in The Harder They Fall and it’s a role that works. Chacon rounds out the trio with an easygoing nature, as Carlos often acts as a meditator between Kunle and Sean.

Emergency is a film that’s equal parts hilarious and horrifying, weaving clever social commentary into the college party subgenre. Whether you’re a fan of Get Out or Superbad, this film is definitely worth a watch. I look forward to seeing what Williams brings to the table with his next film.

Emergency premiered at the SXSW Film Festival 2022. It will have a limited theatrical run beginning May 20 and will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on May 27.


Emergency
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

Emergency is a film that’s equal parts hilarious and horrifying, weaving clever social commentary into the college party subgenre. Whether you’re a fan of Get Out or Superbad, this film is definitely worth a watch. I look forward to seeing what Williams brings to the table with his next film.