Film & TV

Vampires for Social Justice: Amazon Prime’s ‘Black as Night’

Courtesy of Amazon StudiosAsjha Cooper stars in “Black as Night,” an upcoming Amazon Prime horror film.

Horror flick “Black as Night” comments on the long-held debate between violent versus nonviolent protests when a vampire-turned-slave seeks revenge on society and forms an army.

The film, which releases Oct. 1 on Amazon Prime, excelled at providing quick humor but fell flat in most other aspects. The filmmakers portrayal of teenagers was an awkward attempt but funny to watch.

The silly jumpscares interspersed throughout fulfilled the teenage-horror quota, but it was the vampire’s interest in the Black Lives Matter movement that brought the most confused laughs.

“I wanted to give something that would be a little more grounded, a little more true to how America treats people,” screenwriter Sherman Payne said of the film during an interview at the premiere.

The social justice angle on vampire fiction was confusing due to a wavering moral compass, however.

The protagonist ultimately decides a vampire army is not worth joining. Maybe she just wanted revenge on the blood thirsty vampire, or maybe she didn’t want vampires fighting for Black rights when actual humans should be — the allusion was foggy at best.

Payne said his portrayal of vampire media is different from other films they took inspiration from.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios Asjha Cooper stars as Shawna, a 15-year-old who teams up with her friends to battle the undead in “Black as Night.”

“I really wanted to comment on what we usually see in vampire media, which is a suburban white girl protagonist, damsel in distress, usually very passive and it exists in it’s own world,” Payne said. “I wanted to do something that would speak to the Black women that I know in my life that take charge with a more go-get em’ attitude and I think it resonates with people culturally.” 

Maritte Lee Go said her film’s depiction of vampire lore was different from others.

“I got to reinvent the vampire lore,” she said.

Go said she “tried to modernize” the movies she pulled influence from, specifically “Thirty Days of Night” and “Interviews with a Vampire.”

The director expressed her desire to spark a conversation about racial relations in the media with “Black as Night.” 

“It’s a different conversation,” Go said. “We’re not just demonizing white people, we’re looking at [society] as a whole, how do we as individuals when we feel oppressed deal with it. Do you take that revenge?” 

The premise of the plot works with the filmmaker’s attempts on social commentary. Payne said the homeless being preyed upon by vampires was a larger metaphor for society.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios Asjha Cooper, Mason Beauchamp and Fabrizio Guido star in “Black as Night.”

“In vampire media […] male models are the vampires, and I don’t think that really tracts with how America treats people,” he said. “In the real world, the people would most likely be preyed upon and taken advantage of are the ones occupying the bottom rungs of society.”

For a vampire movie centralized about violence against — but also by Black people — the cast was an asset. Of the 16 cast members, 14 are Black. The protagonist is a 15-year-old Black girl living in New Orleans.

The singular white character in the film was a center of comic relief. Payne’s intended metaphor for white allyship is painfully accurate, running away from the issue when the risk intensifies. This was the one clear metaphor in the film — the one bullseye on the board. 

The urban setting of New Orleans also contributes very well to the depiction of Black culture. 

“The backdrop of the city is a character in itself.” Actor Fabrizio Guido said this was because of “the lore that [New Orleans] already has, around the supernatural.”

“Black as Night” was a successful vampire movie which sparks conversation, but a viewer expecting to have a key takeaway on the Black Lives Matter movement will not find it — and shouldn’t be looking for it in a vampire movie in the first place. 

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