I hate looking at old photographs of myself.
It doesn’t matter if I’m with family, friends, or on my own, I just don’t like the feeling they give me, that time might be passing to quickly. Now, pretend I was in a car accident, or some other traumatic event that affected my memory, turned me into an amnesiac. All of a sudden, those pictures, proof of my own existence, would come to mean everything to me. Evidence that I have a life, that I’m loved, that I matter. This is where we find Nolan Wright: a man who after, a car accident that killed his wife and gave him brain damage is trying to regain the memories of the life that he lost – and find out just how far he will go to achieve his goal.
This is the premise of Black Box: the second movie to come out under the Welcome to the Blumhouse series. Black Box is a totally different experience than The Lie, as it tells a story that sits more comfortably in the horror genre, with a sci-fi engine to keep things chugging along. The titular Black Box is a cutting edge machine that could help Nolan remember who he is, with Dr. Lilian Brooks, played by Phylicia Rashad, helping him along the way.
The main selling point of Black Box should be the Black Mirror-type sequences inside Nolan’s mind, scenes which feel eerily like something from the first season of Legion – credit goes to director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. for the staging of these scenes and the clear rules which dictate them, but Black Box is not just here to scare us.
It’s Nolan’s support system, his young daughter who has assumed as much of her mother’s domestic role as possible, and Nolan’s best friend, Gary, who are at the heart of this film, rather than the horror. It’s a creepy movie, with the trips into Nolan’s mind, and what lurks there, providing much of the thrill and fuelling a mystery that, I’ll admit, caught me off-guard.
Like The Lie, Black Box relies on a jarring twist (jarring in a good way) to keep things interesting from a genre perspective, but it’s the human moments that elevate it to something approaching true poignance. This comes from the performances that are uniformly excellent; these Blumhouse movies have been accused by other reviewers of having an unfinished feel, but no-one can say the acting isn’t stellar.
While playing by different rules, Black Box is successful in the exact same way that The Lie is: by investigating what a life-changing event through a genre lens. Whether it’s a tragedy, or the horrible things we are all capable of, can cause a mountain of seemingly impossible problems to tear apart even the tightest family unit
By Kevin Boyle
Header Image: IMDB