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Black Box

Nov 3, 2020

Welcome to the Blumhouse has a Christopher-Nolan-like mind bender that should make horror genre buffs happy.

Black Box

Grade: B

Director: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour

Screenplay: Osei-Kuffour, Stephen Herman (Blank)

Cast: Mamoudou Athie (Underwater), Phylicia Rashad (Creed)

Runtime: 1h 40m

Rating: NR

By: John DeSando

Welcome to the Blumhouse is a collection of genre horror films, now curated by Amazon. The master horror director Jason Blum has combines traditional tropes with modern sensibilities. Something for everyone.

Black Box has the creepy notion of transplanting brain waves to reconstruct consciousness from the dead to the living. The spine- tingling attraction is that while trying to create new life with old, (Mamoudou Athie as recently-comatose Nolan, aptly evoking thoughts of Christopher Nolan’s memory-loss masterpiece, Memento), a new mind in a foreign body, a Frankensteinean doctor, Lillian (Phylicia Rashad) cannot expunge the errors of the previous life. She can’t alter violent and dangerous traits residing in an active brain that may be quite a bit more macabre than the host.

Yet, Black Box is a generally quiet scare, the best kind because it’s the mind’s memory that is orchestrating the imbalance, not a ghoulish scientist.  In this case, she played the calming force on the Cosby Show, and ironically, we know what happened to Bill.

However, Blumhouse is interested in family dynamics, the kind that turn a Thanksgiving feast into mayhem, at least figuratively, exploring the contradictions of love in all its potency. Blumhouse’s Nocturne has the family mosaic in its complicated and sinister form.

It’s the early part of Black Box that has the most powerful ideas challenging the audience to like Nolan while disliking host Thomas. Similarly, Lillian manipulates Nolan’s consciousness while the audience tries to figure out the good guys from the bad.

It becomes a hot mess of identity and priorities. If our current election has your mind bent, then see Black Box to straighten it out when you realize that no human enterprise can be fully controlled or understood.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com