Premiering under the Welcome to the Blumhouse banner on Amazon, Black Box is a sci-fi thriller about memory retrieval. Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. keeps things interesting in his debut feature. The two lead performances in Mamoudou Athie and Phylicia Rashad ground the film emotionally even when things veer into sentimentality. The storytelling is confident throughout.
The film follows photographer Nolan (Athie) who is now raising his daughter alone after his wife was killed in a car accident. The same accident has left Nolan grasping for his memories. Early on we see his house littered with post-its reminding him where things go. His daughter Ava (Amanda Christine) is taking care of him more than he is taking care of her. The newspaper he was selling photos too now says his work lacks the same verve it once did. And he has impulses that were not part of his life before the accident. He smokes for instance and seems prone to violent outbursts.
All of this leads Nolan to see Dr. Lillian Brooks (Rashad), a neuropsychiatrist leading an experimental program on memory retrieval. His friend Gary (Tosin Morohunfola), also a doctor, supports this. Dr. Brooks hooks Nolan up to a black box device that takes him into his memories. While there, he sees a disturbing figure coming at him. People's faces are blurred and some of the memories don't feel familiar.
The scenes inside the black box are effective if not entirely original. It is hard not to be reminded of the incredible visual flair of Get Out during these scenes. Black Box does not have that kind of style. However, the menacing figure Nolan encounters is consistently creepy and unsettling. Real contortionist, Troy James, is playing this role and it is very effective. The practical effect is a highlight of the film.
While Black Box's first hour is slick and engrossing, the final act does suffer a bit. Much of this is due to the shift from horror atmosphere to a standard tale about fixing the past. Thanks to the solid performance by Athie in the lead role, I was always pleased to be watching the film. This is a good start for director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. and I think we will be seeing more of his work in the future.
Black Box is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video as part of the Welcome to the Blumhouse series.