8 great films from the Horror Noire documentary
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror is an excellent documentary on Shutter exploring the history and growth of black horror; I highly recommend you watch it.
The following 8 films double over major milestones for black horror & excellent options for your next horror movie night. They’re in chronological order from the 40s to today.
(PSST! To hear me talk about this on my podcast, check out my episode Horror Noire & Jars Part 2)
1. Son of Ingagi (1940)
Dr. Helen Jackson, the first black woman to be portrayed as a scientist in film, studies the missing link monster, vs the usual problematic tropes. It's written by black filmmaker and pioneer of modern black cinema, Spencer Williams – another first.
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Ben, played by Duane Jones, leads up the survival efforts against an advancing zombie horde which makes him a pioneer for black heroes in horror films. The role, not written with any race in mind, inspired Tony Todd to act. From the black perspective, the advancing zombie mob looks just like a lynching mob. So, there is catharsis in seeing Ben destroy them.
3. Blacula (1972)
Prince Mamuwalde, played by black actor William Marshal, takes his queen, and holds court to discuss dissolving the transatlantic slave trade – a first in its depiction. However, he is turned into a vampire. It's directed by black filmmaker William Crane, a first during the blaxploitation (black exploitation) era. He was even resented by his own team.
Somewhere in the world, my father is proud right now, he's a die-hard Blacula fan and is writing a new-age continuation triolgy. Yes, the love for horror runs in my blood. Could that pass for a pun?
4. Ganja + Hess (1973)
Duane Jones from Night of the Living Dead plays a well-educated black vampire struggling with his bloodlust and whether he should turn his mortal lover as he studies the history and ancestry of African blood—the bloodlust is a metaphor for addiction. Despite all his influence and power, he still fears the police. It's written and directed by black filmmaker Bill Gunn.
5. Candyman (1992)
Candyman is a vengeful spirit with a hook for a hand who kills anyone who dares say his name five times. Tony Todd’s brilliant execution of the role catapults the film into mainstream success, making Candyman the first mainstream black villain to do so & inspiring future generations of black actors and filmmakers.
6. Tales from the Hood (1995)
Tales from the Hood is the quintessential black horror anthology movie where each tale discusses a different problem in the black community around the 90s, i.e. police brutality, child & spousal abuse, racist politicians, and gang violence. It's written and directed by black filmmaker Rusty Cundieff, who refers to it as: “Not just horror for horror’s sake."
This is the most disturbing film on the list, and a major one from my childhood (yes, I know it wasn't for kids). Mr Simms, the creepy funeral home director, is one of the inspirations for Brother Ghoulish.
7. Eve’s Bayou (1997)
A southern Gothic film focused on black womanhood, culture, and spirituality. It's written and directed by Kasi Lemons, a pioneer for black women in modern film-making.
This is another film from my childhood that has always resonated with me. The feel is one-of-a-kind, and does a great job with dark themes and emotional story-lines. A true black Gothic masterpiece.
10. Get Out (2017)
A network of racist white people objectifies black people and seek to possess what makes black people special, fruits of our struggle, by any means necessary. It's written and directed by Jordan Peele. Get Out is the first black horror movie to be Oscar nominated.
I was excited about Get Out the moment I heard about it, and it came during a time that I was still in shock over Trayvon Martin's death. This film not only impressed me, but gave me an ending that I needed to see.
All credit goes to the brilliant minds behind the Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror documentary:
Directed by Xavier Burgin
Produced by Ashlee Blackwell & Danielle Burrows
Written by Ashlee Blackwell & Danielle Burrows
Based on the book Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present by Robin R. Means Coleman
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For more horror reviews, news, and short stories, check out the Brother Ghoulish's Tomb podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other podcast platforms!