Horror-locker Movie Review: BLACK BOX


“Memories are the architecture of our identity.” – unknown

Welcome to the Blumhouse Presents: BLACK BOX

Featuring similar themes as The Lie, Black Box is about family and the lengths at which we will go to protect or bring back those we love. In the case of Black Box the main theme is memory and retrieving what was lost. Where the horror elements begin to emerge is in the characters’ realization that with good memories the bad follow along; the once forgotten ugliness that is rooted within every human to ever exist or that will ever be. When we look back we prefer to recall the pleasantries of an evening with friends or an intimate night with a lover. What we choose to look over are the moments we may have talked behind our friend’s back, or we said something insensitive to a lover. To look past such memories doesn’t negate the reality that these things happened, however unbearable or mortifying. I like to remember all the times my dad took me to the movie theater. I focus on happier moments like this knowing full well that right behind those thoughts are the ones of me walking into his room seeing him lay on his bed, lifeless. I carry that with me all the same.

Black Box explores the scenario of attempting to obtain the lost memories of someone officially pronounced brain dead. Is it possible to not only bring this person back but with memories fully intact and retrievable? Much in the same way life turns out okay at times it rarely occurs in the exact way we were hoping, no matter how positive the outcome. Meaning if someone could come back from such trauma in all likelihood they would never be exactly as we remember them.

As with most things not fully understood in the realm of science to probe without caution can lead to results just as inexplicable as the original concept. As Nolan begins to explore the possibility of finding the lost memories of his life before tragedy struck, he turns to alternatives he doesn’t fully comprehend. But as time continues and he sees the frustration and fear in his young daughter he becomes desperate and so his trip down the rabbit hole begins, not with a whimper but with a horrifying bellow.

Nolan begins to “remember” as he experiences what he believes to be moments from his life such as his wedding or the early days of his marriage and the infancy of his daughter. Two things still plague him however. One is the inescapable feeling that everything he’s experiencing through this experimental tech isn’t his own life, it’s more as if he’s watching rather than participating, as if he doesn’t belong. But if they are in fact his memories how could he not belong? The second is a contorted figure with ill intent oozing off its broken, unnerving movements as it pursues Nolan vigorously. He is afraid but as things overwhelm him he goes to the one thought he never lost, his daughter, and with her in his thoughts he pushes forward, facing the darkness of a mind lost in a void, formless and dying.

Where The Lie faltered, Black Box manages to create likable characters. Nolan is delicate and faulty but emanates warmth and welcoming. His daughter Ava is a breath of innocence in the darker moments as she anchors her father to life, where she needs him. As afraid as she is though she still manages to be the greatest strength between them, carrying him when she has to, despite her young, impressionable age. This is part of Nolan’s tragedy, watching his daughter be the parental figure as he struggles with brain trauma.

As things become clearer he begins to see that hindsight isn’t always the pretty, polished thing we remember it to be. Life is messy and imperfect which brings about questions Nolan must face that he never anticipated. These questions and his response to them could change literally everything about him, from his physical form to his coveted memory. There is more on the line than he ever knew.

While certainly far from perfect I was entertained by Black Box. There are elements that feel very familiar, rehashed even but it’s all handled with a commitment to its characters and the relationships they are fighting for. In the excitement of sci-fi impossibility it’s easy to get lost in it all but for a good story the characters must remain at the forefront of every moment. The drama of brain trauma never gives way to anything overly frivolous, always wrangling itself back to the core of the story, and that is what Nolan chooses to do and who he decides to become. The horror comes from the idea of being lost in the past, or what he perceives to be the past. It may be something else entirely. In the process of finding himself he may lose everything.

Unrated: scary imagery, language, thematic elements (PG-13 equivalent)
Runtime: 100 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Starring: Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola
Directed By: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 3.5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes. Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard