Among the humor, the spooky parts, and candid societal observations, the ending dives deep into the many sides of being Black. The portrayal of Blackness and the conversations revolving around it has been etched into the very core of the film. Intertwining this theme with the dark and humorous aspects of a horror movie is a bold move. The Blackening (2023), directed by Tim Story and written by Tracy Olliver and Dewayne Perkins, holds its own.
Based on a short skit from 2018 made by Perkins, the end of the movie tells us that Black characters can be more than just the stereotypical ones you see in movies. But it also leaves us with some questions and a big surprise that makes us see the whole film differently. Here, I’m going to break down the story, dig into the big ideas, and look closely at the events in detail.
The Blackening (2023) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis :
It all starts with Shawn and Morgan arriving first at a cabin in the woods to celebrate Juneteenth weekend with their friends. They explore the place and find a board game named “The Blackening” that has offensive drawings of black people. A sudden voice talks to them and asks them to play the game by answering questions about horror movies where black characters don’t die. Shawn makes a wrong guess about “Scream 2”. Then the lights turn off, and an arrow flies through the air that hits Shawn. Morgan tries to escape, but an unseen figure grabs her.
The following day, Lisa, Allison, and Dewayne are on their way to the cabin for a weekend retreat. Dewayne is not thrilled to find out that Nnamdi, who cheated on Lisa, is joining them alongside their friend named King. After all, it is Dewayne who helped Lisa recover from that heartbreak. During that time, Shanika is making a pit stop at a gas station en route to the cabin. She unexpectedly bumps into Clifton, an old classmate who is also heading to the cabin. The strange part is that no one seems to recall inviting him.
Things take a weirder turn as Shanika feels unnerved by the gas station worker who ominously hovers nearby. When the group of friends reaches the cabin, they are halted by Ranger White, who refuses to let them enter without the correct paperwork and ID because he is familiar with the regular cabin owners. Once everything is clarified, the friends start prepping for their party. Nnamdi jests at King for his decision to wed a white woman before he sneaks off to meet Lisa secretly.
As the night draws near, the friends indulge in drinking and initiate some games. They all wonder about Clifton’s presence, as none of them are really close to him. During the games, the power suddenly cuts out again. The friends stumble upon The Blackening while searching for the power box, where they find game pieces that reflect their personalities. A voice addresses them again, saying that Morgan is not dead but is being held captive. The voice coerces the friends into participating in the game to rescue Morgan, kicking off with trivia questions focused on black culture.
But the friends struggle to name all the black actors who made guest appearances on “Friends,” leading to Morgan getting attacked. She tries to escape but is caught again. The group of friends is stuck in a room where escape seems impossible, and they are forced to continue playing a sinister game called The Blackening by the Killer. They have been instructed to single out and sacrifice one among them based on who they believe to be the most guilty. Each individual tries to plead their case: Dewayne highlighting his sexuality, others disputing who embodies the ‘blackest’ characteristics, like Shanika, who usually uses the N-word, or Allison, a half-black woman whose white ancestry is often the topic of discussion.
Still, after confessing he supported Trump in two consecutive elections, all fingers point to Clifton. As he steps outside, the unseen figure strikes him with an arrow to the chest. Allison, King, and Shanika bump into the killer and fight him. They eventually overpower and kill him. When they remove his mask, they see he’s the strange man Shanika saw at the gas station. Lisa, Nnamdi, and Dewayne then meet a second killer. Lisa fights him off and kills him. When they check his pockets, they find out he’s the twin of the first killer and guess that someone must have sent them there.
When morning comes, the friends make a reluctant call to the police. As the police arrive, the friends are met with a blast from a water hose. After they manage to kill both twins, they learn that there was another person controlling everything that night who had sent the twins. Not backing down, the friends fight again and succeed in pushing the mastermind down a well, ending his life.
Blackening (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:
Who is the mastermind behind the killings?
Clifton appears to be an unexpected guest for the weekend, saying that he got an invite from Morgan. His participation seems to end when the group votes him as the ‘Blackest’ out of resentment, and the film shows him getting shot in the chest with an arrow by the masked murderer. It’s much later in the ending that it’s revealed Clifton is still alive and is the mastermind behind all the murders and the entire weekend’s events. The revelation might be puzzling for some, considering he was part of the group for much of the horrific night. The ending shows that he has a belt pack that can control when doors lock or unlock and lights switch on or off.
Whom did Clifton hire to kill the group?
In the end, the shocking truth is revealed – the masked killer isn’t just one man but several. The friends finally understand this after Allison eliminates one of them. They realize that they had encountered a different individual earlier, distinguished by the distinct boots he wore. The true culprits behind the murders are the Connor twins, Camden and Clive.
It becomes clear that Clifton had hired these two country boys to wear masks and target his old friends, paying them a meager sum of $100 each. Throughout the movie, subtle hints point to the Connors as the killers. Camden, the odd gas station worker who unnerved Shanika, is revealed to be one of them. Clive, however, remains hidden until later.
Clifton’s decision to enlist the Connors seems driven more by convenience than anything else. The country house where the friends had planned their weekend getaway actually belongs to the Connor family. The presence of white families as the typical clientele and the sight of a Confederate Flag in one of the rooms suggest the Connors may hold racist beliefs, making them willing participants in carrying out Clifton’s sinister plan.
Why did Clifton decide to kill the entire group?
Clifton kills the entire group because he blames them for destroying his life. A decade ago, on the very day that the group reunited, Clifton’s life took a drastic turn following a disastrous game night with all the people who visited his place. He confesses his enduring love for games, but he always struggles with Spades, making a blunder in one of the games. His friends, including Lisa, start teasing him for his lack of understanding of the game, even going as far as to say his Black card should be taken away.
The derision leads Clifton to consume alcohol for the first time ever, and he drove. His life spiraled from there as he accidentally ran over a woman, causing her death. Convicted of the accident, he served a four-year sentence and developed hatred towards his former friends. Lisa’s statement particularly haunted him, so Clifton’s method of exacting revenge at the end of The Blackening revolves around deciding who is the ‘Blackest’ among them.
Did Clifton also die in the end?
It seems like Clifton meets his end, but there’s still a slight possibility he could be alive. He gets shot in the chest with an arrow by Shanika, and then Dewayne pushes him into a well. After that, the group throws something into the well, and they hear it hit the water. This hints that Clifton might have survived the fall. Given that he had already survived a similar injury earlier in the film, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he managed to survive again.