I don’t know about you but I love Halloween! The fresh crispy leafed, autumnal evenings make the perfect setting for watching your favorite horror movies. As I was prepping to create a Halloween movie marathon of my own, I began to wonder what black horror films I could include into the list.
Black people have always been part of the horror genre since it started. Unfortunately, the genre is known for portraying and normalizing negative stereotypes of minorities such as having the villain be a dark shade and many people of color are cast as leads. And if we are, we’re likely to be killed off early (“the black guy dies first!” as the old saying goes). Thanks to the 70s blaxploitation era, the black horror films genre found its voice. Despite the underrepresentation of African Americans on & off screen within the horror genre, that voice has evolved. Particularly, I’ve noticed this play out in the independent cinema due to auteurs like Spike Lee, Wes Craven and George A. Romero who have all made contributions to the genre by frequently casting strong black leads and/or creating films with black-focused narratives.
Despite some of their, dare I say “campy” titles, black horror films have been utilizing the genre to provide a cultural, political & social commentary on issues affecting the black community.
So, here are 5 of the best black horror films to get you pumped for the Halloween season:
- Blacula (1972)–
Blacula is known for being the first horror film of the blaxploitation genre, inspiring many other blaxploitation horror films after it. Based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, the story is about an 18th-century prince named Mamuwalde. In 1780, he goes to Count Dracula to ask for help with stopping the slave trade. Rather than getting assistance, the Prince is transformed into a vampire. Fast forward to 1972, Mamuwalde’s coffin is sold to two wealthy L.A interior designers, who later open the coffin to find a startling discovery. Soon enough, the prince falls for a woman, Tina, who he thinks is the reincarnation of Luva, his late wife. Blacula became one of the highest-grossing films of 1972.
- Abby (1974)–
Abby, a parody of The Exorcist, is about a woman who gets possessed by a demonic, sexual, spirit. The entity, Eshu, presented in the film is taken from the Yoruba religion. The filmmakers did this so it can be separate from the classic that came before it. Despite the film’s box-office success, the film was eventually pulled from theaters and Warner Bros sued the film over copyright issues. Abby was believed to be out of print until 2004 when DVD copies of the 16mm quality movie were sold on online. To this day, the film is considered a cult classic of the genre.
- The People Under The Stairs (1991)–
This next film is still considered a fairly good horror flick directed and written by none other than one of Horror’s masters, Wes Craven. We follow Pointdexter “Fool” Williams, who resides in the ghetto area of L.A. He and his family has just been evicted from their apartment by their creepy landlords, the Robesons. “Fool” and his friends break into their house only to discover it’s a place filled with cannibalistic children! Shortly before his passing in August 2015, Craven revealed his plans to remake the film into a television series.
- Ganja & Hess (1973)–
Ganja & Hess is an experimental film from the 70s starring Duane Jones, who had a starring role in George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. Duane plays Dr. Hess Green, an anthropologist who becomes a vampire when his mentally deranged assistant, George Meda, stabs him with a special dagger. Green then falls in love with his assistant’s wife, Ganja. Throughout their affair, Ganja learns more about Dr. Hess’ “studies”. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and received great reviews from critics. Its is considered one of the most important black horror films for its use of the vampire myth to explore religion and racism.
5. Tales From The Hood (1995)-
It is a 90’s horror anthology film directed by Rusty Cundieff, with Spike Lee as executive producer. A funeral director tells a group of young drug dealers four stories of his former customers. Each tale focuses on a heavy topic that plagues African American communities from police brutality and domestic abuse to racism and gang violence. The film is considered Halloween cult classic by horror film lovers.