Reel Reviews | Black Box

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

A father tries to get his life back in the Amazon/Blumhouse series movie, Black Box.

Due to a serious car accident, Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) has lost his memory, his career, and his wife.  He is struggling to hold onto his daughter, Ava (Amanda Christine).  He is haunted by a nightmare about a strange creature coming for him.  Desperate to recapture a modicum of normalcy, Nola responds to the unsolicited requests of one Dr. Brooks (Phylicia Rashad) who has a new experimental process that should allow Nolan to recapture his lost memories and brain functions.  The question, is Nolan ready for waits for him as journeys down the road of recovery?

Written and directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour based on the story by Stephen Herman, Black Box is the first feature-length film by Osei-Kuffour and the second film in the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series collaboration from Amazon and with Jason Blum, the super-producer behind such groundbreaking movies as the Paranormal Activity and The Purge series, Whiplash, and Us. It stars Athie (Grandmaster Flash from The Get Down), Rashad, Christine with Tosin Morohunfola Troy James, and Charmaine Bingwa. 

Osei-Kuffour, a veteran of the short film, actually does a good job in this, his first feature.  He keeps the action and story moving and allows all of the actors the space to do their work.  His direction is actually interesting and his vision is promising.

Unlike the first movie in the Amazon/Blumhouse collaboration, Black Box is actually more like a horror movie.  Nolan’s character is haunted by a backward walking, double-jointed man with no face.  His best friend, Gary (Morohunfola) is worried about his health and safety, and his daughter, Ava is about to be taken away by child services. All these things force Nolan to go to the desperate Dr. Brooks who seems to be on the verge of making a scientific breakthrough.  These are all the makings of a promising and terrifying frightful film.

Sadly, Black Box does not live up to the hype.  The beats of the film bear a striking resemblance to those of the movie Get Out (also produced by Jason Blum).  There’s hypnosis and brain tampering.  There’s the quipping friend who comes to save the day.  The movie seems familiar but as usual, it’s the execution that makes the difference.  While veteran actor, Rashad holds her own very well, Athie’s performance falls a little flat at times and leaves the audience a little disconnected.  The most redeeming performance is that of the adorable Amanda Christine.  It’s her work in the role of Ava that holds everyone together and motivates them in the movie.

Unrated by the MPAA, Black Box has strong language, some violence, mature themes, and some scenes of horror. It comes across as a longer and lighter version of a Black Mirror episode that is slightly predictable and short on scares.  There are some performances of note but on the whole, it is just passable.

Grade:  C-

Check out Tim Gordon’s Reel Review, below: