Black as Night (2021) Is Dull Teen Vampiric Horror
Title: Black as Night
First Non-Festival Release: October 1, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Maritte Lee Go
Writer: Sherman Payne
Runtime: 87 Minutes
Starring: Asjha Cooper, Mason Beauchamp, Fabrizio Guido
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Last summer, amidst demonstrations around the crumbling apartment complex, a community is terrorized by a cabal of vampires who are attacking and turning the population into creatures of the night. Shawna (Asjha Cooper) tells the story of how she, her best friend (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido), her crush (Mason Beauchamp), and a book lover (Abbie Gayle) team up to avenge her mother’s (Kenneisha Thompson) death at the hands of these vampires. Being resourceful and stubborn, Shawna tracks down the leader of the clan and makes it her mission to end his life. Will she be able to do all this and make it to see her next year of school?
A miserably flaccid and derivative teen vampire horror, Black as Night adds nothing new while failing to induce thrills or interest.
A well-meaning but unfocused endeavor into vampirism, Black as Night fails to distinguish itself from far stronger fare released both today and in year's past. Its story is bogged down by far too many issues that could have been cleaned up in the writer’s room. Riddled with voiceovers that are interspersed throughout the film, Black as Night gets irritating fast with its attempts to spice up its storytelling. They even add an animation scene to explain another character’s backstory and at that point the flashbacks and narration gets too much to handle. The dialogue isn’t unrealistic per se, but it gets grating because it is expository and repetitive. Furthermore, the film’s attempts at humor do not land at all. It’s truly a mess.
Meandering through its clunky plot, Black as Night manages to limp across the finish line but not before offering up limp social commentary. Tackling concepts like gentrification and racism, Black as Night tries to justify its creation by tying heavy themes but doesn’t truly know what to do with them. It’s hard to take a film seriously when it uses terms like “vampire supremacist” without winking at the audience. In the end, it all comes across as preachy and trite, which is a shame because these are important issues.
Shawna is one of the dullest heroines in recent imagination. Her character traits are largely in service to others. Outside of family and boys, she has no interests. Sure, she mentions dance once, but then it’s pretty much forgotten. We hear of other characters history, hopes, and faults, but Shawna? Her thing is being insecure and family oriented. It’s lazy writing and does a disservice to what type of person she could have been. It’s sad that almost all the side characters get more attention that her.
While it’s largely a miss, Black as Night gets a few things right. At least some effort is put into the cinematography here. There’s one neat twist of the camera when Shawna is alone in the room with a vampire about to bite her. It’s a nice visual foreshadow that what the audience thinks they know is about to be subverted. The effects are largely fine even if they aren’t spellbinding. Vampire lore is largely universal here but there’s some extra information added that isn’t entirely annoying. In the end, Black as Night is poorly executed but watchable teen horror fare.
It’s hard to be invested in a film that wants so desperately to be fun and cool, which only makes it bland and unremarkable. Every beat can be spotted a mile away and the writing leads to some of the most uninspired cardboard cutout characters and conversations seen this year. The action is limp, and the story drags throughout the film. The production values are there, and the young cast does their best to dress up the material, but their inexperience shows clearly. Lacking the charm, intensity, or bite that make other vampire horror films irresistible, Black as Night disappears quickly into the night as darkness falls onscreen.
Overall Score? 4/10