In 2018, a sketch dropped called “3Peat Presents: The Blackening,” which cheekily explored the idea of an all-Black horror film and if one were produced, in what order would the characters die? The kernel of this idea has been pondered in movies such as Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” or the “Scream” series, but rarely ever fully explored in a narrative.
Writers Dewayne Perkins and Tracy Oliver wanted to go further with this concept in depicting a 10-year college reunion in a cabin on Juneteenth gone very, very wrong. They took their idea to director Tim Story (“Ride Along,” “Barbershop”) in the hopes of plumbing horror and comedy. The result, “The Blackening,” premiered at the Toronto film festival as part of the Midnight Madness program and is already netting favorable comparison to Peele’s recent riffs on the genre.
Cowriter Perkins (who also appears in the 2018 sketch) drew inspiration from everything from Peele’s horror comedies to “Friday the 13th.” It all appealed to Story, who stopped by TheWrap and Shutterstock’s Interview and Portrait Studio at TIFF with Perkins, Oliver and several members of the cast.
“Tim came on as a producer and as the script was being developed, Tim said, ‘I want to direct this.’ And it was a blessing… Now that we’re here, [at the festival], it’s even wilder.”
Cowriter Oliver (“Girls Trip”) is a longtime horror devotee and was looking for a project that would allow her to tap into her affinity for scary fare. “What was missing from the short was backstory,” she said. “So we’d add in interpersonal dynamics that goes into friend-circle stuff, and also figuring out scares, and making things funny. Tim just got it. I’m so happy he said ‘yes.'”
The movie probes multiple tropes regarding Black identity in horror, including racially insensitive board games, blackface leather masks and even a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” call-out.
For his part, Story looked to some of the classics for reference points. “I grew up on ‘The Exorcist,’ and there’s also ‘Aliens’ and the original ‘Scream,'” he said. “I loved learning from everyone here, their voices and perspectives.”
Actors Jermaine Fowler (“Coming 2 America”), Melvin Gregg (“The Way Back”) and Sinqua Walls (“Nanny”) were also on hand to enjoy the film’s raucous first screening at TIFF — a joyful experience that recalls the process of making “The Blackening.” Everyone, it seems, had a ball every day and had to remind themselves that they were actually working.
“We had a safeword on set to focus up,” Perkins said. “When we heard it, we were like, ‘We gotta calm down.”
For the full conversation about “The Blackening,” click on the video above.
Studio sponsors include GreenSlate, Moët & Chandon, PEX and Vancouver Film School.