Black As Night is an Amazon Prime Original Film directed by Maritte Lee Go and written by Sherman Payne. It is produced by Blumhouse Television as part of the Welcome To The Blumhouse film series. Summer brings several changes for Shawna (Ashja Cooper); she just turned 15, her best friend Pedro (Fabrizio Guido) is weighing whether or not he wants to go to a dance school in Texas, and she’s trying to gain the confidence to speak to her crush Chris (Mason Beauchamp). But soon, she learns that vampires are stalking the streets, led by elder vampire Babineaux (Keith David). When her mother falls prey to the vampires, Shawna resolves to eradicate Babineaux and end his reign of terror.
The film marks Go’s debut as a director, and she expertly blends horror and coming-of-age tropes. Shawna’s journey to defeat the vampire infestation serves as a parallel to her journey through adolescence. “The summer I got breasts, that was the same summer I fought vampires,” she says in one of the film’s many voiceovers. In addition to puberty, she struggles to piece her family back together; that goal soon becomes a desire for vengeance once her mother falls prey to the vampires. Black As Night‘s vampires also differ from the sexy, emotionally tormented beings you usually see in vampire fiction; their teeth are more akin to a shark’s gaping maw, and their skin feels like cold leather.
In the vein of Vampires Vs. The Bronx, the film utilizes vampirism as a metaphor for gentrification; most of the vampires that Shawna and friends face were homeless people who sought refuge in a housing project named Ombreaux Heights. It also explores how events like Hurricane Katrina continue to affect New Orleans; the vampires make their headquarters in the French Quarter, while Shawna lives with her family in the suburbs. But the most prominent recurring theme is colorism, specifically how Shawna deals with having darker skin. Her brother mockingly refers to her as “Wesley Snipes” and says she doesn’t have a chance with Chris as he apparently is more interested in light-skinned Creole girls. However, as Shawna grows more confident in taking down vampires, she becomes less concerned about what others think. In the same way that Snipes has become synonymous with his role as Blade, Cooper’s performance will no doubt serve as an inspiration to a new generation of Black girls who rarely see themselves as protagonists in horror films.
In addition to Cooper, who anchors the film with a soulful performance as Shawna, the rest of the cast delivers their A-game. Guido is hilarious as Pedro, offering well-placed barbs as well as moral support for Shawna. He’s also dealing with his own issues; though he’s gotten a scholarship to a great school, he has genuine reservations about attending a school in Texas as a gay, Latinx teenager. Payne said while writing the film that he wanted to make Shawna and Pedro well-rounded characters, and in my opinion, he succeeded. Though Beauchamp’s Chris is a little thinly-sketched, he and Cooper share a chemistry that feels like two teenagers trying to make sense of their feelings. Abbie Gayle appears as a vampire enthusiast who Shawna befriends; the fun parts of the film usually involve learning what’s real and what isn’t about vampire lore.
David is the film’s standout, bringing a Shakespearean sense of malevolence to his performance as Babineaux. The final fight between Shawna and Babineaux takes place underground, where he delivers a fiery monologue about how immortality has let him witness the horrors that plagued Black people throughout the years-including slavery, as he was formerly a slave before his turn to vampirism. Even though he’s the villain, I felt where Babineaux was coming from, which is the sign of an excellent performance. And David’s voice remains just as booming and magnetic as it did when he voiced Spawn and Goliath; the man could read the phone book, and it’d be captivating.
Black As Night is a solid directorial debut from Maritte Lee Go, injecting themes such as gentrification and colorism into the vampire genre. Though it has some rough edges, its talented cast and themes make this film an engaging watch. I highly suggest watching it as a double feature with Vampires in the Bronx, as both films share quite a bit in common. Between Black As Night and Bingo Hell, Welcome To The Blumhouse is making a hell of a comeback.
Black As Night is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Black As Night
- Rating - 8/108/10
Black At Night is a solid directorial debut from Maritte Lee Go, injecting themes such as gentrification and colorism into the vampire genre. Though it has some rough edges, its talented cast and themes make this film an engaging watch. I highly suggest watching it as a double feature with Vampires in the Bronx, as both films share quite a bit in common. Between Black At Night and Bingo Hell, Welcome To The Blumhouse is making a hell of a comeback.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.