Horror Bingo 2022: Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror

Most of the Horror Bingo 2022 movies are, well, movies, but Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror is actually a documentary available to watch on Shudder.

If you’re a horror fan and/or interested in learning more about Black creators, films, and trends in the horror genre, this is well worth checking out.

Year: 2019
Director: Xavier Burgin
First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Streaming Service: Shudder
Spoilers: I mean. It’s a documentary, so. No?
Grade: Chocolate

This documentary is based on a non-fiction book by Robin R. Means Coleman called Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890’s to Present. I’d really wanted to read it a few years ago—would still like to, as a matter of fact—but at the time, it was not a cheap book to purchase or even an easy one to find. So when Shudder announced they were doing a whole documentary based on it, I was desperate to check it out. This documentary is, no lie, the primary reason we got Shudder in the first place.

I saw Horror Noire for the first time a few years back, but  Mekaela had never seen it, and I enjoyed watching it again—because, frankly, my memory is bullshit, and I couldn’t remember many of the details from the first go-round. Horror Noire roughly covers about 100 years of film history in 83 minutes, beginning with how films like The Birth of a Nation presented, cemented, and validated racist sentiments and stereotypes in America for actual decades to come, all the way up to Jordan Peele’s groundbreaking and revolutionary Get Out which premiered to widespread adoration in 2017.

Horror Noire simply does not have the time to go into great detail about every significant Black film, sub-genre, or trope, but it’s a really solid intro featuring a number of talented Black writers, actors, and directors. (The people I was most excited to see were Tananarive Due, Keith David, Tony Todd, Jordan Peele, Rachel True, and Robin R. Means Coleman herself.) It’s interesting to watch these artists and creators discuss the benefits, downsides, and overall significance of both specific films (like Candyman) and whole sub-genres of film (like blaxploitation movies). I especially enjoyed hearing about films I was less familiar with, like Ganja & Hess, as well as discussing tropes that generally get less attention, like the Black badass guy who dies to prove what an unstoppable killing machine our villain is. (Is there a more concise name for that trope? I looked around briefly but couldn’t find one.)

We only watched the original documentary for Horror Bingo, but if you’re interested in checking out more about Black horror, it looks like Shudder has produced a Horror Noire anthology series, as well as a podcast with the uncut interviews of several guests from this documentary.

Next Up: The Fly

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