It is the season for horror, so many people's favorite season, and this year I was happy to discover that the documentary Horror Noire, A History of Black Horror, made in 2019 and which premiered on Shudder (which I don't have), is now playing on Amazon Prime. It's based on the book of the same title by Robin R. Means Coleman, a book I intend to order pronto having seen the documentary.
As Coleman says of the Duane Jones character in the film: "He's slapping white people upside the head. He's killing white zombie after white zombie after white zombie. This had to be horrifying to racists."
It's remarkable the impact this film had on so many people watching it at the time, black people I'm talking about, and a number of those people, future actors like Tony Todd and Ken Foree and Keith David and Rachel True, explain in Horror Noire exactly what that impact was.
I should add that I never get tired of hearing the story about how Duane Jones' character was not written as black, but that he just happened to be the best actor who showed up on the day George Romero was doing auditions for the role.
If you want a list of Night of the Living Dead and after black horror films to watch this Halloween season (or anytime), the inimitable Gabino Iglesias has just put together a good one over at The Line Up: https://the-line-up.com/black-horror-movies
Best of all, the doc mentions a couple of films I had missed somehow but that looked intriguing, and so I sought them both out quickly. There's nothing better than a film doc that gives you exciting recommendations.
Attack the Block (2011)
British made, this sci-fi horror comedy stars John Boyega (later to go on to Star Wars films fame) and Jodie Whittaker (later to go on to fame as the first female Dr. Who). I have no idea how I missed this film for all these years, but it's an absolute lark. The writer and director is Joe Cornish, in a most impressive debut. Vicious, hairy alien invaders attack a council estate in London, and a teenage street gang, with leader Boyega, wind up being the block's main defenders. The gang, in a way that's plausible, is made up of kids of varying shades of color -- class is what unites them more than race divides them -- and the police are the enemy as much as the invading aliens. Whittaker plays a woman the gang first mugs, but that's before they find out she too lives in the block and that they may need her help. Action mixes with scares mixes with comedy mixes with social commentary in just about perfect balance.
Yes, as Horror Noire suggests, black representation in horror films is evolving, and evolving well, and this is one example.
The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)