TC revivists three of his favorite horror films by Black directors and reflects on what makes them great and what they can teach us about society.
His House (2020) Directed by Remi Weekes
His House follows a young couple who emigrate from war-stricken South Sudan to London in hopes of a better life. However, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and his partner, Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) bring something with them from their travels, which they never expected. As the couple attempts to adapt and integrate themselves into a new culture and society, a malevolent force haunts their new home.
As Bol begins to notice these supernatural occurrences, he realizes his citizenship and residency are completely dependent upon his behavior and how they are perceived. As Bol and Rial suffer the torment of this sinister force, they also endure harsh social and racial sanctions.
Remi Weekes offers a refreshing take on both the refugee experience and horror as a genre by using Bol’s trauma and guilt to create this demonic presence. His House uses the trauma and grief of a war-torn refugee to create the monster, which ultimately haunts them. With all of the psychological and emotional agony, partnered with ever-growing societal pressures and racial prejudice, Weekes frames the refugee experience in an original, honest, and horrifying light.
Get Out (2017) Directed by Jordan Peele
Get Out tells the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) as they navigate presenting their interracial relationship to her unapologetically, white family. Although Chris expects some nervousness, racial barriers, and discomfort meeting Rose’s parents for the first time, he never expected what unfolds…
Unlike most horror movies, Get Out doesn’t involve excessive amounts of red corn syrup, latex, or a masked murderer. It does have a cabin in the woods, though — I know what you’re thinking, “not another cabin horror flick.” But, Get Out evokes a different type of fear, a piercing psychological examination that seems to snowball until the very end.
Ultimately, Peele wanted the film to address race and target ‘liberal elites’ by offering some comfort for the historically afflicted Black individual, and some affliction for complacent whites. Jordan Peele when asked in an interview what truly scares him. He responded, “Human beings. What people can do in conjunction with other people is exponentially worse than what they can do alone. Society is the scariest monster.”
Bones (2001) Directed by Ernest Dickerson
Bones is a horror and blaxploitation film about a beloved member of the community, Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg) who is betrayed and murdered. Twenty years later, he returns from the dead ready to exact his revenge.
Blaxploitation is a film sub-genre that aims to undo the stereotypical role assignments of Black characters. Dickerson puts Black characters at the center of the frame and story reversing a horror trend where characters of color are peripheral and/or die early on. Ernest Dickerson uses Snoop Dogg, blaxploitation, and horror to brew this nightmarish-urban gem.
I won’t give away the ending, but Bones is a wild, gory adventure that maintains its suspense 20 years later.
Candyman (1992) Directed by Bernard Rose
This film is about two graduate students working to complete their thesis, focused on the urban legend of the ‘Candyman.’ By repeating the name ‘Candyman’ five times in the mirror, all your fears and nightmares become real. Candyman appears soaking in blood with a meathook for a hand, to slash himself into your memory. Helen (Virginia Madsen) encounters blood, terror, and hate while she questions her own sanity, in this cult classic.
Director Bernard Rose offers an interesting origin story for antagonist ‘Candyman’ (Tony Todd) which touches upon race, hate crimes, and interracial relationships. It’s also important to note, the film was shot at an infamously dangerous housing project, Cabrini Green in Northern Chicago.
Candyman comes from a wealthy background. After falling in love with a white woman which was considered taboo in 1890, he is tortured and brutally murdered. His arm sawed-off, beehives smashed then placed upon his naked honey-covered body, then burnt to ashes once stung to death. The fashion in which Candyman was murdered could be interpreted as a hate crime, resembling a tar & feather-like technique for public humiliation.
The degradation surrounding his murder fuels his unquenchable thirst for blood, by continuing to torment and kill his own people, further perpetuating Black-on-Black violence.
Although Bernard Rose is not Black, he still takes a close and thoughtful look at Chicago’s history of violence, poverty, and culture. But, Jordan Peele alongside a new Black director, Nia DaCosta are taking a stab at the 90s classic by releasing a new installment later this year. The film takes place roughly a decade after the Cabrini projects are demolished, leaving nothing but rubble and forgotten horrors to be uncovered again.
I believe it’s a privilege in itself to see through the lens of a director, let alone an individual’s experience and culture. Being a twenty-something year old, white, male has put me in a unique position to try and understand something that’s bigger than me, not my own. Often times in movies, we can relate or attempt to empathize with the characters or a storyline. But, when it comes to specifically these films, among others, they act as a catalyst for racial equality.