Amazon’s Black Box Explained: Who Really Survived In The End?
Of all the horror thrillers Blumhouse made in collaboration with Amazon Prime, Black Box is the one blessed with the most intriguing and adrenaline-pumping storyline- an amnesiac man trying to remember his life but discovering that someone or something in his head is stopping him from accessing his memories. The majority of the film is one mind-blowing cycle of unpredictability. The twists just keep coming, such that even when the end credits roll in, we are left scratching our heads in confusion over the complex ending. So, here we are, with a simplified explanation of what really goes down in acclaimed short-filmmaker Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour’s feature debut.
The story of Black Box
The story focuses on Nolan Wright, a professional photographer for a big newspaper, and his family. It all begins after a major accident in which Nolan’s wife dies and he loses his memories. His memory loss is so severe that he has difficulty in accomplishing the most basic tasks like cooking food and picking up his 10-year-old daughter, Ava, from school as he tends to forget things a lot. His work has also suffered from his condition. As a photographer, he is having troubling managing the earlier quality of his photos and is unable to find a job.
When he once again forgets to pick Ava from school, her teacher warns him that if he repeats his mistake, she will be forced to contact child services. Afraid of losing his daughter and desperate to remember his life, he seeks out Dr. Lilian Brooks who previously contacted him to help with his situation. She has created a device known as the “Black Box” that can guide someone in accessing their buried memories and in Nolan’s case, help him in remembering his past.
The inhuman presence in Nolan’s memories
The procedure begins when Dr. Brooks connects Nolan with the Black Box and asks him to select a safe place, which ends up being his daughter, Ava’s room. She then instructs him to not open the door of this room, as she can’t bring back his consciousness to his body if he does. He also needed to imagine a watch on his hand that will allow him to jump from one memory to another or return to consciousness altogether.
From the beginning, his memories appear warped. For starters, he can’t see the faces of anyone in his memories. They are just people with blurred features for him. Secondly, these memories- a wedding, and an unknown apartment with a woman who looks like a victim of domestic violence- don’t look like Nolan’s memories. Lastly, there appears to be an inhuman presence in his memories. This prescience stops him from completely remembering everything and every time he tries, he returns to consciousness terrified.
Dr. Brooks assures him that it’s just something his brain has conjured up to protect him from the traumatic memories of losing his wife and the terrible accident. But Nolan is still conflicted. The memories triggered by the treatment are so not in line with how everyone else describes him.
Discovering the truth
He tracks down the woman from his dreams and is astonished to discover that not only is the apartment very familiar but he also somehow recognizes the woman and the child living in it. So, the next time he uses the Black Box, he goes in determined to see the memories clearly no matter what. Thus, when the twisted creature arrives, he fights back. Soon the blurred faces in his memories become clear and he makes a startling discovery- the reason he feels so out of touch with Nolan’s life and can’t seem to remember anything is because he isn’t Nolan. He is Thomas, Dr. Brooks son, who died two years after falling down the stairs outside his apartment.
Shocked, Thomas wakes up and that’s when Dr. Brooks tells him the truth- after his death, she downloaded the EEG data of his brain and was on the lookout for a suitable person in whom she can put her son’s consciousness, bringing him back to life. So, when Nolan, grievously injured in the accident that killed his wife, was brought to the hospital and announced brain dead, she saw her chance and wheeled him into her lab where she uploaded Thomas’ consciousness in Nolan’s body. She explains that he is not an amnesiac- his consciousness was simply adjusting to his new body.
Dr. Brooks tells Thomas that he once again has a chance to right the wrongs and go back to his family. He complies and leaves Nolan’s daughter at Gary’s house. But when he returns to his apartment and manages to convince his wife, Miranda that’s it’s him in Nolan’s body, he discovers that they have erased his existence from their life. Because of his severely abusive nature, he is not welcome in their lives anymore. The revelation makes him angry and as he starts becoming aggressive, his wife hits him on the head and the next time he opens his eyes, he finds himself standing in front of Nolan’s daughter, Ava. Somehow, in his weakened state, his subconscious mind brought him to her. But why?
He runs away and finds himself looking at the reflection of the creature from his memories instead of himself in his car’s window. Terrified, he goes to his mother who again insists that his brain is shielding him from his traumatic memories. She connects him to the Black Box again and instructs him to kill the creature in his memories as it’s the only way he can take full control.
Thomas sets out to do the same but is shocked to discover that the creature is none other than Nolan himself. This means that Nolan was never completely brain dead but Dr. Brooks, who was done waiting to bring her son back to life, still uploaded Thomas’ consciousness into his brain. As Nolan’s consciousness was weak from the accident and the resultant trauma, he couldn’t fight back and just remained in the background of Thomas’ memories to stop him from gaining full control of his brain.
At the same time, Gary finally deduces what might have happened the night a severely injured Nolan was whisked away by Dr. Brooks. He and Ava break into Dr. Brooks’ lab where Thomas/Nolan is hooked to the Black Box and demand that she disconnect him. But despite discovering Nolan’s existence, Thomas continues beating him until he hears Ava scream for her father. Her voice reminds him of his daughter’s screams the night he died- he was hitting his wife and when his daughter, Ashley tried to intervene, he hit her. To save her, Miranda shoved him in self defense and he ended up falling down the stairs.
The memory makes him realize that he would be a true monster if he took Nolan away from Ava and he chooses to step out of the door into the darkness. This leaves Nolan to take control of his body. He wakes up and does the secret handshake with Ava, confirming that it’s indeed him. Dr. Brooks is exposed, her license is revoked, and she is fired while Nolan returns to his life for the first time since the accident.
As for Thomas’ fate, earlier we learned that beyond the door in the safe place are his memories. It is also complete oblivion from where Dr. Brooks won’t be able to bring him back. It turns out that beyond the door it’s the Black Box itself. By stepping out the door, Thomas trapped himself in the Black Box, as he was hoping for some eternal punishment for his sins. But judging by the end of the film, where we see Dr. Brooks discovering his presence in the box, she is one again going to try and upload his consciousness in another, unsuspecting host.
Black Box is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.