• Nate Adams

Review: Blumhouse's 'Black Box' made up of recycled parts


Courtesy of Prime Video

Blumhouse can’t seem to get enough of the Jordan Peele formula, enlisting him for a producing credit on the thriller “Black Box,” which goes so far to rip off his own “Get Out,” I’m unsure why he’s not suing for punitive damages. Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour and written by Wade Allian-Marcus, Stephen Herman, and Kuffour, “Black Box” is an exercise in lazy narrative manipulation, utilizing every science fiction cliché in the book, to deliver a choppy body swap thriller with minimal social commentary. It’s like Blumhouse dug through the literary archives, dusted off the cobwebs, and presented it to this crew with a miniscule budget and said “Good luck!” In certain cases, Blumhouse can manifest decent features out of nothing, but in the case of “Black Box” they plagiarized themselves. 


Rising star Mamoudou Athie is doing his best as Nolan, who was in a terrible car accident six months ago and declared brain dead, before making a miraculous recovery, albeit, with amnesia. Nolan spends his mornings getting tips from young daughter Ava (Amanda Chrstine) about the day ahead, who gives flashcard quizzes to keep his mind on track. Nolan doesn’t know his life before the accident though he sees remnants of his late wife and is trying to regain lost memories for a sense of normalcy. 


He’s tried every therapeutic drug on the market and gone through countless rounds of therapy to stimulate his brain cells, but nothing works. When he meets an experimental therapist by the name of Lillian (Phylicia Rashad), she presents Nolan with an alternative form of treatment: one that allows her the capabilities to see inside his mind and extract sensitive data. Wasting no time, Nolan begins the procedure and slowly starts feeling like an intruder inside his own body, and the line between reality and fiction become blurred. 


Except, the time twisting paradox and its sloppy presentation is a massive blunder that undermines what “Black Box” is selling. And once you realize what the filmmakers are trying to ponder - the idea of uploading one's memories and subconscious into an unmanned vessel - this junkie horror thriller loses any street cred. The screenplay contains recycled jargon and dialogue around hypnotism that Peele must’ve dropped from “Get Out,” and the obvious visual cues mine as well have been plucked from rejected Blumhouse properties. 


It’s a shame, because Athie is the only salvageable aspect of “Black Box” as he manages to approach his character with a sense of authenticity, understanding the emotional turmoil of losing loved ones but struggling to understand why. Nolan is caught between two worlds, and so is the audience: The one where “Black Box” is an engaging, smart, thriller with honest implications and the other a stifling straight to streaming stinker. 


I’ll let you figure out the difference. 


Grade: D 


BLACK BOX is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video