AMAZON’S BLACK BOX IS LIKE A LOST BLACK MIRROR EPISODE. Blumhouse’s new sci-fi thriller is goofy, soapy fun.
FOR ITS FIRST hour, the new sci-fi horror flick Black Box appears to have collaged its story together using the plotlines of other, better films. A Black man is hypnotized and sucked into his own subconscious by an older lady, à la Get Out; when he isn’t being hypnotized, he’s struggling to piece together what happened on the night of his wife’s death. To function in his amnesiac state, he must follow instructive notes reminding him how to behave, just like in Memento. Yet, just when it seems director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr.’s debut feature will never leave the land of prestige-thriller imitation, it shifts. Soon Black Box is a bonkers, delightfully campy Friday-night-popcorn-on-the-couch affair. It’s a mess, but in a way that resembles a lost episode of Black Mirror, one full of heavy-handed technophobia and big twists.
Black Box opens with handsome, skittish widower Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) dealing with memory loss six months after a car crash kills his wife and leaves him with a severe brain injury. A former photographer, his work has suffered after the accident, and bills pile up in his spacious home. His adorable daughter Ava (Amanda Christine) tries to keep the household running, holding out hope that her dad will return to normal and ignoring his bouts of rage. She’s frustrated by the way his personality has changed after the crash—he smokes cigarettes, even though he never did before, and the formerly gentle artist is now prone to punching walls. After his forgetfulness gets him in trouble with Ava’s school, Nolan decides to undergo an experimental neurological treatment with a device known as the “Black Box” in order to recover his memories. The treatment, which uses hypnosis to delve into the subconscious, reveals surprises lurking in the deepest recesses of his mind. Sinister! Then, we learn, his suspiciously eager doctor, played by Phylicia Rashad, has a big secret of her own. Extra-sinister! …
Black Box is part of Welcome to the Blumhouse, an anthology of films Amazon is releasing this October from the powerhouse horror production company Blumhouse, and the roster should provide horror lovers with plenty of options for spooky autumn evenings at home. Black Box is the kind of movie, though, that would benefit immensely from a midnight screening for a rowdy crowd ready to appreciate its campy charms.