Black Box parents guide

Black Box Parent Guide

There's more tension than terror in this teen-friendly horror flick.

Overall B-

Amazon Prime: Nolan lost his wife in a car accident years ago, leaving him to raise their young daughter alone - a process made more difficult by his deteriorating mental health. When he visits a therapist, she offers him the ability to relive his memories and address his trauma...but there are things in his memories he doesn't recognize.

Release date October 6, 2020

Violence C
Sexual Content A
Profanity C-
Substance Use B+

Why is Black Box rated NC-17? The MPAA rated Black Box NC-17

Run Time: 100 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Following a car accident which killed his wife and left him with severe amnesia, Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) struggles to keep working and raise his daughter Ava (Amanda Christine). There might be a light at the end of the tunnel - a spot has opened up for Nolan in an unusual clinical trial run by the mysterious Dr. Brooks (Phylicia Rashad) which has the potential to restore his lost memories. But there’s something in Nolan’s subconscious that seems more intent on strangling him than helping him find his past…

Right off the bat, let me make very clear that this is not an NC-17 film. According to IMDB, this film has a “self-applied” rating of NC-17, the strongest caution given by the MPAA. Most films avoid that rating, and deliberately edit the film to go down to an “R” – movies like Pulp Fiction and the gruesome Hostel series were originally given an NC-17 and edited to be re-rated. Black Box is absolutely not that kind of movie.

Not that this is a great kid’s film – it’s still a horror movie, and still wildly unsuitable for young or sensitive audiences. But with minimal profanity, comparatively non-gory violence, and no sexual content, this is better pegged at a PG-13. If you’ve got a teenage horror fan in the house, this would be a great choice for them.

And as horror movies go, this one is surprisingly well done. The messaging about the lengths people will go to for family is genuinely touching, and the scares are just unsettling enough to get your heart rate up without being gruesome enough to bring your lunch up with it. Perhaps the biggest standout in the film is the remarkable performance by Amanda Christine as Ava – child acting usually ranges from “unbearable” to “unspeakable”, but Christine is genuinely charming and endearing.

Ratings confusion aside, this is an above-average horror flick, suitable for a broad audience, with minimal content concerns. Even more surprising is that this is a Blumhouse production – yes, those same cinematic maniacs responsible for delights like Unfriended: Dark Web, The Hunt, and Fantasy Island. With their incredibly hit-and-miss history, I’d say we got very lucky with Black Box – and even luckier still that it doesn’t merit the alleged NC-17 rating.

Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour. Starring Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, and Amanda Christine. Running time: 100 minutes. Theatrical release October 6, 2020. Updated

Watch the trailer for Black Box

Black Box
Rating & Content Info

Why is Black Box rated NC-17? Black Box is rated NC-17 by the MPAA

Violence: An apparition is repeatedly shown with bones cracking and out of place. An individual is strangled in dreams. A woman is shown with bruises implied to be from domestic abuse. A man is knocked out and is later shown with a small amount of blood on his head. A fistfight is shown. A man is threatened with a knife. A person is thrown down a stairwell and killed.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There is one use of a sexual expletive, one use of scatological profanity, and infrequent use of terms of deity and mild profanity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An adult character smokes cigarettes offscreen.

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Black Box Parents' Guide

Nolan clearly cares for his family but struggles to remember his responsibilities. What effect does this have on Ava? What are some strategies Nolan could have used to better care for her? What do you think Thomas’ (Donald Watkins) family experienced? How do you think the events of the film changed their lives? Why does Dr. Brooks do what she does? How do you think she justifies the consequences?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Perhaps the best alternative is Get Out, which features similar stories about the dangers of hypnotism and family – although with a more racial bent. Jordan Peele, the director of Get Out also directed Us. Another horror flick which questions the reliability of memory is Come True.