In collaboration with horror movie factory Blumhouse, mediocre horror films have made their way into Amazon Prime Video over the past two years. This may sound cynical, it is wrong. The eight-film (so far) anthology has given a ton of budding filmmakers a chance to enter horror territory.
Unfortunately, most of those films haven’t crossed the 50% mark on Metacritic. Most have an intriguing premise and most (read: seven out of eight) fell short of their potential.
But in an “oh, that was amazingly cool” way it raises eyebrows.
Black Box is far and away the best in the Blumhouse-Prime Video group. A Sci-Fi Flick With Horror Bent, 2020 Release Can Claim RightMaking comparisons, taking conflicting people and entrusting them with the technology with the results.
We literally dive into the head of Nolan Wright (Mamoudou Athey), a man who wakes up from a coma suffering from amnesia. It sounds like familiar territory, but it’s dominated by Nolan’s daughter Ava, played by Amanda Christine, a child star so good she’ll give the Stranger Things kids a run for their money.
Ten-year-old Ava is often the adult in the relationship, reminds her father of who she is, prepares for dinner and generally puts her little family life together. You want her to have a good life and eventually Nolan realizes that he needs to do something, anything, to be the worthy father of his daughter.
Fortunately, there’s a new, experimental therapy on offer, which involves hypnosis and a generic VR headset called a “black box.” (No spoilers: the trailer has it all.) The Doctor’s lengthy explanation. In short, it plunges Nolan into the abyss of his mind, where he discovers important memories. It contains a sneak peek of a White Christmas Black Mirror episode, or any entry involving mind-boggling technology.
Yet Black Box’s indie movie delivery, with its focus on the character’s self-discovery, gives it a slightly different definition.
Since we start in low-key, character-focused mode, the relatively low-budget sci-fi imagery of Black Box leaves a strong impression. It’s a delightful moment to delve into Nolan’s memories—plunging us into a slightly brighter sunken space that plays with control over one’s body and subconscious. Alongside a creaking wire score, there’s also a body-contradicting monster that thumps on a sense of foreboding and mystery.
Even if you don’t read through the black box grounds, it’s quickly clear that something isn’t as it seems—not just with the memory search process, but with Nolan’s existence in general. . “You shouldn’t have avoided this either”—a doctor helpfully says of Nolan’s coma-inducing car accident.
It provides the pleasant experience of picking up clues, clumsy or otherwise. Some have described the memory puzzle aspect of Black Box as Memento-esque. While it’s not as clever or complicated as Christopher Nolan’s classic, Black Box delivers its game-changing show in a way that builds on exciting pace, serving up the best moments for the ending.
Black Box sneaks up on you with its well-oiled parts, coming together to deliver a simple yet effective morsel of sci-fi horror. It fixes the human aspect of its story, wrapping every element into an emotionally rewarding conclusion. If you’re a sci-fi fan, especially the Hidden Gems variety, head over to Amazon Prime Video. Black Box should be taken off your list, especially as a marker of what’s to come from first director Emmanuel Osei-Kafour Jr.