When the trailer first dropped for Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, I was so excited. As a little black girl raised on horror and sci-fi, I looked forward to seeing the black people who I looked up to being celebrated in this way.
I watched it as soon as it dropped on Shudder, but I waited a day to write about it and then another week and a half to re-digest and flesh out my thoughts a bit more, because there were some things I loved and some other things that I didn’t care for.
I was ready to celebrate black horror movie history and they killed my excitement at first with the intellectual masturbating and pontificating about “Birth of A Nation”. I felt like, “Really, this again? Can’t we celebrate anything without starting from a point of oppression?”
Then, I checked myself momentarily. Yes, this is a history I know well as I am educated having earned 2 undergraduate degrees and a master’s. I had to remember that there are people who do not know this history.
There are young people who haven’t gotten to that stage in their educational journey to know this history. So, while it may have felt like overkill to me, some may get something more out of it. It is important not to forget.
At first I was like what does this have to do with….oh. The way it circled back around at the end made it make a little bit of sense. I was expecting it to start where they spoke about Son of Ingagi (1940), which I have reviewed by the way. Or to begin with the ghoul and zombie movies of the 30’s and 40’s because those movies also featured black actors.
As I was making notes, one of the presenters said, “monsters represent all non-white people”. Werewolf, vampire, and other mythology go back hundreds of years before any of the people who started to tell those tales around the fire ever encountered black people.
Not to mention that there are African stories about monsters like Popobawa, Inkanyamba, and Adze (which is pretty much an African Vampire). There are Central/South American stories about Chupacabra and La Llorona, and Native American stories about Wendigo.
Malaysian Penanggalan , Indian Vetala and the Phillipines has the Manananggal which is also pretty much a vampire. So if “monsters represent non-white people”, what do monsters in the folklore of non-white people represent?
I am thinking that her full statement was possibly edited down removing essential context. While the origin of these monster stories may have had nothing to do with fear of people of color, there could be underlining racist subtext in the way the monsters were presented in Hollywood.
When it was mentioned that the creature from the black lagoon’s lips meant that he represented a black person. My first thought was, “Have you ever cleaned a fish?” Catfish especially have big lips. He looked like he represented a fish man.
However, my frame of reference was from seeing the movie in black and white. I remember my sister, my cousin and I riding our bikes to Cumberland Farms to get the 3-D glasses that were part of a HBO promotion to watch The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Friday the 13th 3-D. Could there be a racist undertone?
When I was looking for images for this review, I came across color photographs from The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Is it because his lips are red? Like golliwog red?
Or maybe he is just modeled after a freshwater catfish, which also has large red lips. Sometimes, a fish man is just a fish man.
They may have a point or they could be the type of person who sees racism in everything. Like someone who would say, “I don’t eat Neopolitan ice cream because they put the vanilla ice cream on the right. It’s on the right to tell you that white is right and the chocolate is on the left because black is bad.”
Then it was said that Abby was about “fear of a black women’s sexuality”, due to some of the raunchy things she does and says while possessed. It is not. It is a cash grab and one of the many movies that tried to copy the Exorcist, hence the title Abby the Black Exorcist. [The following video is NSFW: due to strong language.]
I love and have reviewed Abby, btw. Abby did not say nor do half of the nasty shit that Reagan said and did when she was possessed. Point being that demons are nasty mfers that say nasty shit.
Did I mention that I reviewed Abby, and Blacula and Blackenstein and Dr Black and Mr Hyde and many other black horror movies? I did not see these movies as negative social commentary on black people, at all. I viewed them as black remakes of old white horror movies which come from books, books that were often based on folklore.
Regarding Ganja and Hess (1973) and the assertion that Hollywood “wanted something cruder”. I disagree. They wanted something less art house and more main stream and marketable. To this day, main stream horror does bigger box office numbers than art house horror.
Then they really put 20 on 10 when they went on to say, “Horror movies made white people flee from the urban to the suburban.” The opening description in the script for Poltergeist says, “The type of neighborhood WW2 bought and paid for.” That’s when the suburbs were created. The creation of the suburbs had nothing to do with horror and everything to do with “white flight”.
Then one speaker says that the houses in Poltergeist were built on an Indian burial ground. They were built on a random regular graveyard. Not that it makes a difference, which dead bodies the houses were built over.
It does matter that the experts they have talking don’t seem to be familiar with the films that they are speaking on. They got all these scholars that don’t really seem to know about horror movies, or horror books or horror folklore.
Re: Candyman (1992) “He chooses to haunt black people instead of white…” The first kill of the movie is a white girl. The most haunted person in the film is Helen. Candyman isn’t even black in the source material, which takes place in England.
Let me stop bitching about what I didn’t like and speak on what I did because this is starting to sound like a completely negative review. Please make no mistake, it is not. Those were just a few things I could not rock with.
I really loved seeing some horror movie greats that I grew up watching. I could watch Rachel True, Kelly Jo Minter, Miguel A. Nuñez Jr., Loretta Devine, Ken Sagoes, Ken Foree and Keith David talk about horror for hours.
First of all, I can’t believe that I forgot that Loretta Devine was in Urban Legends: Final Cut. To be honest, I forgot that both Urban Legends movies happened. I still really like Loretta Devine, though.
The documentary kind of rushed through mentioning LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes appearing in Halloween movies. They briefly mentioned Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror as well.
I wish they would have spent a few more minutes on musicians appearing in horror. They could have given just a little more shine to Kelly Rowland in Freddy vs Jason, Brandy in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and Rah Digga in 13 Ghosts.
Remember when Redman was in Child’s Play 5 aka Seed of Chucky? Or when Mos Def was in Island of the Dead? Or when Ice Cube was in Ghosts of Mars? Okay, I think we would all like to forget that last movie, but it is a thing that happened.
Ice-T was in Leprechaun in the Hood! Sticky Fingaz was in Leprechaun: Back to the Hood.
DMX and Coolio have each been in lesser known horror movies. I think I even remember Big Daddy Kane being in a horror movie called Dead Heist (2007).
I could probably write a whole post about horror movies with rappers in them. They should have dedicated at least a good 10-15 minutes to this phenomena.
Rachel True made a huge difference to some of us young black women. Her character in The Craft showcased on-screen some real life things that those of us that have been the only black girl in class experienced.
Kelly Jo Minter has a special place in my heart because I don’t think she ever died in a horror movie. She was in The People Under the Stairs, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Popcorn and even though it was only for a couple of scenes, The Lost Boys. I even enjoyed seeing her in non-horror movies like Mask and Summer School.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate Miguel A. Nuñez Jr. cute self. I had the biggest crush on this dude. He just brought so much personality to his characters, from singing “Ooh, Baby. Ooh, Baby” in an outhouse in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning to everything he did in Return of the Living Dead.
Ken Sagoes is iconic for playing Kincaid and I’m just going to leave my favorite scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors right here. He survived as well…until part 4. He is still acting in horror. I definitely recommend this independent horror movie he was in called Gorenos.
I would love a series in which Ken Foree and Keith David just talk about whatever. For some reason when I was younger, I used to confuse Keith David with Ernie Hudson. They have a similar energy. I am torn between including the Ken Foree fighting the worm creature in his underwear scene in From Beyond (I didn’t find a gif for that, but the one below is also from From Beyond) or the Keith David “Put the sunglasses on” fight scene from They Live, so enjoy both!
Tony Todd. Tony mfn Todd. I could tell you the story about me freaking out because he called my Grandmother’s house in his Candyman voice because I didn’t believe that my mother, uncle and their cousins knew him growing up. I told that story in my video review of the Candyman Trilogy.
One person that I wish was there because she meant a lot to me as a nerdy black girl was Toy Newkirk who played Sheila in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. She still works in the film industry as a producer now.
Apparently, I am not the only one she affected deeply. As I was looking for images for this review, I stumbled upon a podcast about Sheila called Mind Over Matter With Ashlee Blackwell on Elm Street Radio. I love the great artwork in her honor.
I will let you know right now that this is still a must see documentary. I just wish it was longer. Scratch that. I wish this was much much longer. As a matter of fact, I wish it would have been a 10 part series with episodes focusing on different aspects of black horror.
It would also be amazing to see a spin-off two part documentary that speaks on the emerging Nigerian Nollywood and Ugandan Wakaliwood film industries. Hopefully the success of the Horror Noire documentary leads to opportunities such as these.
While I didn’t rock with every part of this documentary, I still feel that it is important as a first step toward more representation and acknowledgement. Hopefully this opens the door to more projects being greenlit. Netflix the ball is in your court now. We got two Fyre Festival docs, now let’s get to work on a Netflix Black horror doc. You too Amazon.