“African American characters outlive other characters way more often than you’re lead to believe through genre jokes.” -Blair Hoyle, cinemaslasher.com
“I seen this movie, the Black dude dies first.” -Orlando Jones as Harry in Evolution (2001)
I’m a bit sour to the notion that Black characters (always) die first as the issue skitters the line of accuracy. I’ve always watched horror movies a bit removed from this concept, consistently watching films that more or less taint this formula. If Black people don’t die first, they perish later. My biggest gripe is the fact that Black characters are more times than not woefully underdeveloped, simplified tropes that, if and when they do die, are plants often for the white, central character we are to invest emotionally in. With the television series Fear The Walking Dead being the latest demonstration of Black and first fallen, I began thinking more about why this idea continues to prevail. Within film history in particular, does it have an origin?
I can remember the first time I picked up Horror Noire. It was the spring of 2013, and I was close to graduating in Pittsburgh, PA. My favorite place in the whole city was a particular nook in the Carnegie Libary of Pittsburgh, that houses the books on cinema and overlooks the dinosaur fossil exhibit of the Natural History Museum. I would get a stack of books and just hide there, nap there and eat Quiznos sandwhiches there, it was my favorite place in the world. I was getting more into horror movies and came across the one book I could find on black culture and horror films. Robin R. Means-Coleman’s Horror Noire. It was eye-opening for me. It showed me that despite what my professors told me, there was a place in film for me. I felt seen, or maybe I felt like I could finally see, other films, other filmmakers, writers and creators. I held the book much longer that I should have, and I think I might still have an overdue fine with the CLP.
Coming out this month, the Netflix of horror, Shudder is premiering their first original documentary based on Robin R Means-Coleman’s book, along with several live screenings and panels. This is an ambitious venture for Shudder, bringing together the underappeciated but close-knit community of actors, writers, filmmakers and creators for a documentary like this. I only started to see black people on horror panels after Get Out, then (most of them my own) a number of horror panels had POC talking about POC issues, and POC issues only. It was nice to be included but it was also limiting, many of us want to talk about more things than how good Get Out was and how there needs to be more representation in horror. Hopefully this doc will be the official word on the topic, for many people to use as a reference for how they want to discuss the topic going forward.
I can’t wait to watch it and hopefully I can have a premeir party of my own in Seattle soon!
As usual, Jordan Peele knows exactly where he’s going. “What we should do,” he says, with real enthusiasm, “is head to Hogwarts. Get some butterbeer. The Harry Potter ride is dope.” Peele has a movie he’s supposed to be editing, a burgeoning production company to run, an adorably talkative 17-month-old son waiting at home, but he’s slipped away from it all for a couple of hours on a Monday afternoon in early December with obnoxiously perfect West Coast weather. His assistant just dropped him off at Universal Studios Hollywood, a theme park that still thrills him, despite the fact that he is an actual, Oscar-winning filmmaker for the actual Universal Pictures, which is putting out his second film as a writer-director, the full-bore horror flick Us, on March 22nd, and released his life-changing, culture-shaking debut, Get Out, in 2017. “I might do a wand fitting today,” Peele muses, as a VIP escort brings us through security.
Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and Candyman star Tony Todd are two of the movie notables interviewed in […]