Black As Night (2021)

Director: Maritte Lee Go

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Starring: Asjha Cooper, Frabizio Guido, Mason Beauchamp, Abbie Gayle, Craig Tate, Keith David

My review of Black As Night was first published at Bloody Good Screen.

While unremarkable, the second of this year’s Welcome To The Blumhouse offerings is a marked improvement on its predecessor. The story follows Shawna (Asjha Cooper), a teenager whose worries of unrequited love and a drug-addicted mother are worsened by the emergence of bloodsuckers preying on New Orleans’ disenfranchised. As she recounts, this would be the summer she got breasts and fought vampires.

Aiding her are loyal best-friend Pedro (Fabrizio Guido), vampire fanatic Granya (Abbie Gayle), and athletic love-interest Chris (Mason Beauchamp), down-to-Earth characters whose growing relationships are conveyed well by the performers. Their worries about parents, romance, and moving away are interrupted by a supernatural situation arising.

Depicted with glowing red-eyes and animalistic snarling, the vampires don’t stray far from the standard depiction. A strong addition is how garlic’s effects are likened to tear gas, and one wishes there were more reinventions like this. Otherwise, it’s the traditional fangs and staking reducing them to dust ala Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

An inspired part of Sherman Payne’s screenplay is how vampires are used to talk about the injustices Black people have faced. From the villain originating as a slave to how Hurricane Katrina lingers in resident’s memories, it’s a thoughtful perspective which sits well alongside Shawna’s self-esteem issues. She worries about how dark her skin colour is, something she’s told makes her lack beauty and prevents her from trying out for the dance team.

Director Maritte Lee Go does good work with the character-building moments, although the action-focused beats feel lacking. Between some scenes being too darkened and a sometimes frantic feeling, it can be difficult to make out what’s happening. Spare a thought for Tunde (Sammy Nagi Njuguna), a late-addition whose arrival promises so much yet delivers very little. He can’t even be called an exposition device, as the all-intrusive voiceover gets there first, rendering the character as needless. Thankfully there’s enough decent elements to make a passable vampire flick.