Film / TV
A Halloween Watch List for Melanated Horror Fans
October 2, 2023
Yeah, I know. We all love Halloween as much as the next creepy kid, but let me keep it real with you; you don’t need to watch Beetlejuice again this season. Just let it go. It’s ok.
Consider this list of 13 horror films with melanin in mind, and on screen.
Sugar Hill (1974)
You want it done right? Leave it to Black women. When Sugar’s man is murdered by local gangbangers, she looks to the Haitian Vodou spirit Baron Samedi to help her get that sweet revenge, and beat ‘em at their own game. Now that’s what I call “good for her”. Sugar Hill is one of the foundations of Black Horror, and a staple of Blaxploitation cinema at the same time. Watch it for free with ads via Freevee or Tubi.
The People Under The Stairs (1991)
The fact that this Wes Craven masterpiece doesn’t sit at “the cool kids table” with Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or The Last House on the Left doesn’t sit right with my soul. We’re talking themes of gentrification and displacement of Black and brown people, racial tensions in America, the war on drugs, and even more when you peek under the bed. The best part is- the film wraps it all up in a cute, cohesive and jacked-up story, that you don’t have to bend over backwards to understand. Wes once again proved his allyship with this joint. It’s well worth the 3.99 VOD price.
Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
Jada, Jada, Jada… You in danger, girl. Ernest Dickerson put his foot in this funky horror cat n’ mouse featuring the first ever Black final girl, Jeryline, played by Jada Pinkett Smith acting opposite a fine- ass Billy Zane Jr. It’s goofy, gory, quick and satisfying; all the pieces for a perfect Halloween staple. It’s available to stream on Peacock and Starz.
You can put the pieces together; William Marshall slays the screen as the only suitable name for THEE Black vampire (jokes). Nothing about this man is to be played with- the aura, the undead drip, the sideburns- nothing. So please, I’m begging you to sub out Eddie Murphy’s Vampire in Brooklyn for this Black Horror classic this year. Catch it for free with ads via Freevee or Tubi.
Attack The Block (2011)
A young John Boyega leads this coming of age story about a group of young grunts from South London who step up to protect their housing complex when it’s invaded by aliens. The film is visually stunning, and leaves you feeling full. I’m dead serious- this is a near perfect sci-fi horror film with performances that pull at the heart. You’re welcome, Star Wars. Stream it now on Prime Video, Hulu, and Paramount+.
Wendell & Wild (2022)
Grief in the family spawns the moments we all try to avoid thinking about. It’s become just a tiny bit easier to cope with after last year’s release of Wendell & Wild. It’s a Monkeypaw Productions x Henry Selick project. You might find the name familiar as it’s often overshadowed by Tim Burton’s popularity on projects like The Nightmare Before Christmas or James and the Giant Peach. This time, Selick works together with everyone’s favorite uncle Jordan Peele to create a surprisingly punk, family friendly and inclusive stop-motion story about moving on, being true to yourself, and always loving your friends and family. Oh, and Keegan-Michael Key, Angela Bassett, Ving Rhames, and James Hong are there too. Stream it on Netflix.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The birth of George Romero’s “Of The Dead” series started with the casting of Duane Jones as the lead “Ben” back in 1968. The character was not written as a Black man at all, but after Jones hit the studio to absolutely demolish his audition, the entire future trajectory changed. Romero and company saw an opening to make a bold statement on civil rights, and continued the effort into later films to highlight several American issues through the public fear of zombies. It’s simply history, and simply a classic. You can stream this one damn near everywhere (rightfully). Crackle, Max, MGM+, Pluto, Plex, Shudder, Tubi, Starz, yadda yadda yadda.
I’m banking on y’all pressing play for the glory of Grace Jones. Vamp is a fun, corny horror comedy about a group of horny college students looking to hire the area’s hottest dancers. Thank the dark lord they fall into a strip club occupied by the cosmically sexy and seductive vampire “Katrina ” and her coven. Don’t expect this film to take itself seriously- but do expect some moderate cringe. Mother Jones fans head over to Plex, Pluto, or Tubi to stream it.
His House (2020)
If you’re looking for a horror story to chew on for a few days, His House is the grossly overlooked film you need to jump on. It’s a refugee story starring Lovecraft Country’s Wunmi Mosaku about the horrors of assimilating into a foreign culture after surviving the trauma caused by war in South Sudan. It’s also packed with a twist that would respectfully shake up M Night Shyamalan with ease. Watch it on Netflix.
The Blackening (2023)
Simply horror comedy done right. The Blackening plays with us entirely too much and will leave you scheduling your rewatch after you laughed over 25% of the rapid-fire jokes. The feature film is based on a Comedy Central short by the same name, both written and performed by Dewayne Perkins. It’s just fun, feel good Black excellence that gives us no choice but to have a good time. You can rent it on VOD for 5.99, but you’re better off permanently adding it to your library to do it all over again with your family and friends.
Mr. Peele and Monkeypaw Productions haven’t failed us yet, and I don’t think they will. All three of Peele’s original horror feature films have been certified bangers, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Us doesn’t pack the most Halloween spirit with a full on twisted slasher. You can stream it on Peacock, or bag it on VOD.
Tales From The Hood
When Rusty Cundieff (Fear of a Black Hat), Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing), and Darin Scott (Menace II Society) were put in a room together in the 90’s, we got one of the strongest horror anthologies of all time. Clarence Williams III is a real strange funeral director who takes us through four short horror stories that even after 20+ years stay relevant for Black and brown communities. It’s not all heavy, though. Cundieff found the key balance of voicing themes of community trauma in a way that’s enlightening, not triggering to the viewer- something that we, 20+ years later, oftentimes struggle to accomplish. Do your homework and stream it on Peacock or Starz.
- Candyman (2021)
If you’ve seen the original, it’s time to give this one a try. Nia DaCosta’s extension of the 1992 classic is a great remix of the themes that emerged back in the 90s. Instead of viewing the setting, Chicago’s Cabrini Green projects housing as an object to illustrate desperation and unwarranted hardship onto Black communities, Nia DaCosta’s present day Cabrini Green housing represents the aftermath of gentrification, and how the migration of “high class” audiences can wither our creative drive.
Did any of your favorites make the cut? Are there any honorable mentions that deserve an award? Let me know @idkgravity and let’s talk about it!
Words by Xero Gravity
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