Soon to be shown in a limited run in theaters in LA and New York, Horror Noire delves into the politics and social relevance of black horror films.
Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele is among several filmmakers who will discuss the politics behind African-American culture and horror films in the new documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror.
Peele won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Get Out in 2018, a film that was acclaimed for combining aspects of the horror genre with provocative racial commentary about being black in America. The writer-director was also well known for his politically charged comedy in the sketch show “Key and Peele” on Comedy Central.
Horror Noire is based on the book of the same name by Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman and takes a critical look at a century of genre films that by turns used, caricatured, exploited, sidelined and embraced both black filmmakers and black audiences.
It is the first original feature documentary from the horror- and thriller-streaming service Shudder, and will premiere there on Feb. 7 after special screening events in New York and Los Angeles earlier in the month.
“After I saw Oscar winner Jordan Peele’s Get Out, I created a UCLA class around black horror called The Sunken Place,” said author-educator Tananarive Due, who will also be interviewed in the documentary.
“The text I recommended was Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman’s Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to the Present. So I was so thrilled to help bring this story to life on the screen. Horror Noire is about the history of black horror films, but it’s also a testament to the power of representation and how horror is such a visceral way to fight racial trauma: our real pain and fear, but from a safer distance—while we get stronger.”
Other interviewees featured in the film will include directors Ernest Dickerson (Demon Knight, Bones), Rusty Cundieff (Tales from the Hood) and Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned) and actors Paula Jai Parker (Tales from the Hood), and Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead). Xavier Burgin directed Horror Noire, Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman, Fangoria Editor-in-Chief Phil Nobile Jr and Kelly Ryan of Stage 3 Productions executive produced and Ashlee Blackwell and Danielle Burrows produced and co-wrote it.
“The horror genre is daring, unflinching pedagogy,” said Coleman. “It is like a syllabus of our social, political, and racial world. The horror film is fascinating if for no other reason than that it prides itself on snuggling up next to the taboo, while confounding our sense of good and evil, the monstrous and divine, and the sacred and profane. It is one of the most intrepid of entertainment forms in its scrutiny of our humanity and our foibles. It is my sincere hope that Horror Noire will spark fierce debate and trigger even more exacting, nuanced explorations into the power of horror.”
“There are messages of humanity and survival that black storytellers and performers have been expressing in horror since the genre’s beginning,” said Ashlee Blackwell, a producer and co-writer of Horror Noire and founder of Graveyard Shift Sisters, a website dedicated to the topic of black women in horror. “It’s been an exciting journey to work with a team to bring this once hidden history to life and out of the shadows.”
Perhaps recent films like Get Out and this new documentary will broaden the visibility of a genre that was always valuable to the black community.
“Horror Noire is an important and timely documentary that explores an overlooked part of the horror genre that’s only just beginning to get the attention it deserves,” said Shudder’s general manager, Craig Engler.
Horror Noire will have its world premiere Feb. 1, in collaboration with Beyond Fest and the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, Calif., headlining two days of screenings with special guests, in celebration of black horror.