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The Reel Critic Discusses ‘The Blackening’ With Writer Dewayne Perkins

Written by on June 14, 2023

Reggie “The Reel Critic” Ponder recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dewayne Perkins, who not only wrote but also stars in the thrilling new horror/comedy The Blackening.

From Tim Story, the director behind Shaft, Ride Along and Barbershop, and writers Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins, The Blackening puts a comedic twist on a classic horror story while adding some modern Black culture to the mix. The story follows seven friends who go on a weekend reunion trip to a cabin in the woods and find themselves trapped with a killer out to get them. Now, they must do everything in their power to survive. This film stars Grace Byers as Allison, Melvin Gregg as King, Sinqua Walls as Nnamdi, Yvonne Orji as Morgan, Antoinette Rovertson as Lisa, and writer Dewayne Perkins as Dewayne.

The film is a direct adaptation of the 2018 Comedy Central sketch “The Blackening,” developed by the Chicago-based improv group 3Peat, of which Perkins is a former member. The sketch gained popularity, caught the attention of Tracy Oliver and eventually led to beginning production on the full-length feature film in 2020.

Perkins gives Reggie the inside scoop on the film, talking about the inspiration behind The Blackening, its comedic and empowering elements, the inclusion of audience interaction, Dewayne’s dance scene and the universality of Black experiences portrayed in the film.

See ‘The Blackening’ and Dewayne Perkins on the big screen this Friday June 16, only in theaters.

Reggie Ponder: Hi, I’m Reggie Ponder, The Reel Critic. I’m here with Dewayne Perkins, for his movie The Blackening. Dewayne, you must have been trying to take out all the frustrations Black people have had for years with this movie!

Dewayne Perkins: Truly, it was just a moment for me. The original idea came from … I was on this all-Black sketch show. And we did a sketch for all of us, and I loved working on it. I just imagined, like, “Oh, if this cast was in a horror movie, who would die first?” I was like, “Well, they’d pick the Black person, but we’re all Black. So they have to have a way to pick the Black person, or pick the person that’s the ‘Blackest.'” And I was like, that is the funniest way to say Black people are not the same. You can’t define that. Then expanding it into the film, it was just about adding as much, as many instances of Blackness, to really showcase, like, “Oh, we are not a monolith.” And then have as much as possible.

RP: This whole concept of, “We can’t all die first.”

DP: It’s very funny. I love the tagline, because it is a funny statement. But it’s also a secret threat. As you look at the poster, we’re all holding weapons. “We can’t die first!” It speaks to the trope of the Black person dying first, but also speaks to the resilience of the group, of community, of Black people. They’re like, “Oh, no, you might kill one of us. What you think the rest of us doing?” We cannot die first, meaning, “Oh, no, you can’t take us all down.” And so that is kind of the energy that the movie comes with. Like, “Oh, you best believe you get one of us, the rest of us ain’t just sitting there. We also gonna fight.”

RP: When we watch horror movies, what we see all the time is, you hear people in the background like, “No, no, I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that!” And that’s basically what you’re saying. You’re saying, “No, we’re not gonna just stand here and take it.”

DP: Yes, it was very intentional to put the people that talk to the movie in the movie, and allow them to make the choices that they would make. There’s a scene, specifically, where the cast is watching the TV that our friend is captured in. And we’re yelling at the TV. They’re like, “Girl go up the stairs, do this!” And it’s happening at the same time where the audience is yelling at us, yelling at the TV, it’s very meta in that way. That’s what we set out to do, is make a movie for the people that yell at movies. Because why would we make these dumb choices?

RP: A little birdie told me that you have this dance background, right? So you have a dance scene in this film. Talk about the dance scene!

DP: So there’s a scene where I’m on molly, and I dance. You know what’s crazy? There is a dance scene that got cut, where it was fully choreographed. I hope it’s in the special features … So in the board game scene, there’s a scene that mentions, like there was a bonus question that said, “We can get a bonus question if you can do the dance that she did.” And I did the entire dance. And then it got cut! Galen Hooks … she came and taught it to me … She was a dancer for Janet, she’s done so much. I was so excited. And then it didn’t make it in, but yeah. Dance is a love of mine. And I’ve met some great people through it.

RP: Do you think that Black people are the only ones who are gonna get this? 

DP: No, I think that one of the purposes of this is to show that Blackness is also universal. That we have human experiences that all people can relate to. I think that there are certain jokes that feel very specific to Black people. But, similarly to how I have consumed decades of movies and cinema and media that were not necessarily made for me, I think this is another one of those opportunities — if you know what we’re talking about, go learn it. I’ve had to learn a lot of things. If you know, you know. If you don’t, then go find out.

RP: To hear and see more of this interview, you can go to Reggieponder.com. And to find this movie will not be hard, because it will be in a theater near you on Friday, June the 16th. I’m Reggie Ponder, The Reel Critic. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube @thereelcritic, and I’ll see you next time.

Follow Reggie “The Reel Critic” Ponder on Twitter and Instagram

Audio production by Reggie Ponder

Intro written by: Omi Salisbury

Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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