“A man has got to be able to see his own face.” Horror Noire is the latest Shudder documentary based on the non-fiction book Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1980s to the Present, written by Robin Means Coleman. Directed by Xavier Burgin, you can watch it now on Shudder.
I was incredibly moved and overwhelmed by this documentary and I absolutely loved listening to all of these incredible people talk. There were so many great voices including Jordan Peele, Ken Foree, Keith David, Rachel True, William Grain, Tony Todd, and Ashlee Blackwell. My favorite though was Robin R. Means Coleman. She brought such thoughtful and incredible knowledge to the table.
The doc starts with the first film, Birth of a Nation, showing a white man depicted in black face, and takes us all the way through to the modern day. I’m not going to go to in depth here because so many others with more important voices than mine have done incredible jobs.
Check out my favorite articles about Horror Noire:
What I’m going to do is just highlight some of my favorite moments and things I learned.
I had no idea the pressure that Jordan Peele felt with Get Out. To have a black protagonist as the hero, to have every single white person in the film be a villain, and to have this be a success. So much pressure was on his shoulders. The other thing I learned was the symbolism of Chris killing Dean with a buck. Buck was an offensive term for black men back in the day.
Most of us know about the original ending that Get Out had, and why Jordan Peele changed it. But what I never realized was how important it was when he changed it. Seeing Chris succeed and stay a hero along with Rod is so incredibly important. Because we see in the news constantly black men being shot down, and Peele felt enough was enough.
I learned about Director Spencer Williams who made a film named Son of Ingagi. He shows a black woman as a Scientist which is an absolute breakthrough for its’ time, and honestly still for this time. It was revolutionary film that put the real black middle class on display and showed genuine black lives.
I was fascinated by the viewpoint of the Atomic Age where black people weren’t seen at all on screen. But the aliens and the creatures had a sort of caricature of black people. They used Creature From The Black Lagoon as a prime example of that.
Scream Blacula Scream from 1973 was really the first time a black woman took the lead in a film. And something I hadn’t put together was the over sexualization of black women in film, especially in the 70’s.
In the 80’s was when the trope of black people dying first really got out of control. And it’s pointed out that black people were only used as sidekicks or pointless characters. They were killed first, or incredibly quickly, to prove to white people that the terror was real. Black people were used as a sacrifice, dying to protect white people. It comes from the “faithful servant” trope and is carried on even to this day in films. Black people are there to help white people, to be the shoulder to cry on. Or as Rachel True hilariously points out, “Are you okay?!”
There are so many wonderful things to learn from this documentary, and it ends on such a hopeful and positive note. I’m so thankful this exists and I highly recommend you watch it immediately please!