From Twilight Zone: The Movie to Creepshow, compilation films are nothing new. Welcome to the Blumhouse is an interesting experiment, though. Blumhouse, the same studio behind modern horror classics like Get Out and The Invisible Man, is releasing eight genre movies on Amazon under the same level. The first half arrives in October, although the results are mixed. One film is fairly routine, the second is disturbing in all the right ways, the third is entertainingly bad, and the fourth is well worthy of the Blumhouse name. So, which does Black Box fall under?
Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Black Box centers on a car crash survivor named Nolan (Mamoudou Athie). Tragically, Nolan’s wife didn’t make it and many of his memories were lost in the process. Although Nolan is now a single parent, it’s his precocious daughter Ava (Amanda Christine) who’s taking care of them both. Determined to get his head on straight, Nolan signs up for an experimental therapy to restore his memories. The scientist in charge of the treatment is a mysterious woman named Lilian (Phylicia Rashad), who may have other plans in mind. Although the experiment appears to be working, Nolan begins to suspect that his new memories might be someone else’s.
Black Box certainly has a promising setup, but it bites off more than it can chew. At a tight forty-five minutes, this could’ve been a solid Black Mirror episode. At an hour and forty minutes, the film beings to run around in circles. The audience can predict the twist faster than Nolan does and once the characters do catch on, it pretty much goes in the direction that you’d expect. Black Box draws comparison to numerous other sci-fi stories, from classics like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to movies you forgot existed like Self/less. The film never quite distinguishes itself, however, save a few commendable performances.
Athie does a strong job of balancing his two personalities, one of which is a loving father and the other is something more menacing. Christine is relatively new to the scene, but it’s clear from the get-go that she’s a natural. The always-great Rashad is reliably unsettling as a mad scientist with relatable motives. The film also has a capable director in Osei-Kuffour, who turns in a few standout shots. Osei-Kuffour’s script, on the other hand, plays it too safe and fizzles out with an anticlimax.
Of all the Welcome to the Blumhouse movies, Black Box is the most middle of the road. It’s well-acted and has some fun ideas, but we’ve seen so many of those ideas before in better films. For a free Amazon movie, the film is a serviceable waste of time, but a waste of time nonetheless. If you want a film that is worthy of your time, join me in my review of the next Blumhouse movie, The Lie.
Black Box releases on Amazon on Tuesday, October 6.