When the economy is down in movie-land, movie makers turn to horror. Horror films are America’s obsession with the great unknowns that can hurt you. So it’s no wonder that horror films gain ground during difficult economic times. (Granted, who wants to be scared of the great unknown, and then drive home in a Hummer. )
For many African Americans, horror movies were a little too close to home.
Why battle a zombie when you can see a junkie on your neighbor’s steps? Why worry about ghosts when you’ve heard older people talk about the ghosts of relatives in your own house. A double-whammy is that Hollywood often featured Black people as a part of the “great, harmful unknown,” or a spook.
Movies like “I Walked with a Zombie” (1943) portrayed Black actors as slobbering zombies, or “voodoo” practitioners who could kill you with a doll.
Or Black characters were seen as bumbling, superstitious buffoons who ran over each other while trying to run from a ghost, like Stepin Fetchit in “The Ghost Talks” (1929).
It wasn’t until the Black Power movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s that a new genre emerged: Black horror movies. This time, the Black actors were the central characters. They had a different relationship with voodoo, ghosts, and vampires. Now, they were the heroes and heroines to save the day.
Also, horror wasn’t found in the manicured lawns of exclusive neighborhoods, but they were in urban areas, especially in Black neighborhoods, like in “Blacula,” “Tales from the Hood,” and “J.D.’s Revenge.”
But what about Black women in these movies?
Unlike their white counterparts during the 60’s and 70’s, Black women found themselves as central characters in horror movies who weren’t always the cloy yet clueless victims. Some even perservered and turned the tables on their aggressors.
So how can we celebrate these women who were light years ahead of Hollywood?
With Halloween around the corner, now is the time to revel in these films! Plan a party to showcase one or more of these films. (You can pick them up at your local DVD rental store, or from Netflix, but remember, if you plan to show them in a theater or public venue, you’ll have to purchase a screening license.)
Throw a Movie Party
PICK YOUR FILM
Pick your film, or films, based on a theme. Make sure you have enough time for your party *and* for screening your film.
ASK GUESTS TO DRESS ACCORDING TO THE THEME
If it’s a zombie flick, there’s nothing better than a room full of zombies, dancing and eating non-humans. Think of it as a party and a tribute to “Thriller.” If it’s a vampire movie, offer free vampire teeth party favors. It’s like a costume that guests don’t have to splurge on.
HAVE MUSIC ACCORDING TO THE THEME
The late-Michael Jackson had many “scary” songs that can also rock a house full of zombies: “Thriller,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Smooth Criminal,” etc. For “voodoo” themed parties, plan New Orleans music by The Meters, Dr. John, The Neville Brothers, and more. Serve gumbo with your movie…and pray no one throws it up.
Include trivia games to liven up your party and make the trivia about the stars of the film, or the theme. For example, “You can kill a vampire with a silver bullet. TRUE? FALSE? –False. You kill a werewolf with a silver bullet.” Offer prizes that you can buy from any 99-cent store. People don’t care about the prize. They care about winning.
Be sure to pick up these films for your next get together!
TEN BEST HORROR MOVIES STARRING A BLACK ACTRESS
10. Beloved (1998)
9. Abby (1974)
8. Sugar Hill (1974)
7. The Omega Man (1971)
6. Angel Heart (1987)
5. Def by Temptation (1990)
4. Tales from the Hood (1995)
3. Blacula (1972)
2. Queen of the Damned (2002)
1. 28 Days Later (2002)