By: David De La Riva
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a film came along that tried to tackle some of the incredibly powerful and horrific themes the 1992 classic Candyman delved into, but was made for the most stereotypical millennial crowd, while also simultaneously trying incredibly too hard to fit in the “Young Adult” mold? Well, wonder no longer, because we now have that exact film in BLACK AS NIGHT.
BLACK AS NIGHT, an Amazon Original Movie, brought to us as one of this year’s installments in the annual “Welcome to Blumhouse” anthology series, was directed by Maritte Lee Go. It is a Vampire flick that doesn’t suck your blood… it just kind of sucks. Our film follows Shawna (Asjha Cooper), a teenage girl who lives in New Orleans 15 years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, where a new plague is about to come into town and attempt to destroy the Big Easy. However, just like Shawna, the city is resilient, and won’t go down without a fight!
It is summer 2021, and Shawna is visiting her mother Denise (Kenneisha Thompson) at the Ombreaux, a housing project filled with homeless individuals, and those who are the latest victim to drug abuse and addiction. Shawna wants nothing more than to help her mother get clean so she can live with her family again, and while she tries everything in her power to help her mother, the addiction proves just too difficult to conquer.
Later that night, while attending a party with her best friend Pedro (Fabrizio Guido), she foolishly decides to walk home alone. During her journey back home, she gets attacked by some sort of horrifying creatures, who bite at her neck and suck her blood, leaving her in a horrified and confused state, ultimately deducing that she was attacked by vampires. This terrifies Shawna, as she now fears that she is going to become one of these blood-sucking demons. However, her fears prove ultimately futile, as she is still able to walk among the living.
She tells Pedro about the attack, and while trepidatious at first, the two deduct that these vampires are attacking the homeless, leading to the realization that her mother could be at risk. When the two reach Shawna’s mother, it is already too late. She has been turned into a vampire, leading our two protagonists to the horrific decision to kill Shawna’s mother. Shawna then vows vengeance as she plans to track down and kill the vampires who turned, and ultimately killed, her mother.
In concept, BLACK AS NIGHT has some astonishing (if not particularly familiar) ideas, tackling powerful topics such as drug abuse, slavery, gentrification, and racism. However, each and every single one of these topics is purely tackled on a surface level, and at times, feels as though it is just mentioning them to come off as pseudo-woke on the issues, without actually delving into how horrifying and disgusting each and every one of these issues are.
While the script has our characters talking about these topics, nothing is actually being said, and quite frankly ,it is difficult to look past this issue. It almost feels as though the film is part of the problem it is so desperately failing to talk about; gentrifying the plights of the homeless, of addicts and of people of color, wrapping it in this little bow, and selling it to the masses without actually saying anything of substance.
There's a reason films like Get Out and Candyman have had such massive success. They take these topics incredibly seriously, and have something to say while incorporating it into the genre. BLACK AS NIGHT does not do any of this, instead opting to tiptoe around the issues without actually saying anything of substance. Then, when you throw the sheen of a Young Adult style on top of it, it just comes across even worse, with some of the cringiest and awkward dialogue handling these serious topics.
The film ultimately fails within its story and themes, which truly is a shame, as everything else behind the scenes comes across as particularly well-made. The set design and cinematography of the film are wonderful, the visual and practical effects are very fun and spooky, and the actual vampires themselves do look pretty damn cool. Sadly, none of this can overcome the halfhearted storytelling that takes place in the film.
BLACK AS NIGHT showed signs of a truly great and important film, but ultimately skipped steps and didn’t have the guts to fully delve into the themes it teased, ultimately leaving us with a stale, cringeworthy mess of a vampire flick that is all bark and no bite.
BLACK AS NIGHT is streaming on Amazon Prime Video now.