Black Representation in Horror Films, Part 1

Professor Chuck announces a new five-week horror film series exploring Black Representation in Horror Films from the late 1960s to the mid-90s. This sequence forms the first half of a horror film series exploring black horror films to the present day. Those interested are invited to participate in Part 1, Part 2, or both. Enrolled students can send me written answers to the discussion questions for personal feedback and will participate in weekly Zoom discussions. I also welcome lurkers who just follow along behind the scenes and maybe reach out occasionally with comments or questions.

Participation in my horror film series is always FREE, though donations are welcome.

Those who wish to participate as active students are asked to enroll before Friday, March 26, by emailing me at chuckcarusophd@gmail.com

Educators may use or adapt any of these materials for their own teaching, but I do ask that you acknowledge my contributions to your own teaching materials as appropriate.

Part 1 starts the last weekend of March (3/27-28/21), with a Zoom discussion held during a subsequent weeknight evening from 7pm-8pm (Pacific). Only enrolled students will receive the Zoom invite via email.

The official film selections for the first half of our two-part series are as follows:

Black Representation in Horror Films, Part 1 (1968-1997)

  • Pre-requisite: “Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror” (2019). Directed by Xavier Burgin, this documentary establishes historical background, forms the basis for our viewing syllabus, and provides preliminary analysis for the trends and themes we will explore in this series. Please watch this film before the start of our five-week series. (Even those students only planning to join the series for Part 2 will be asked to watch this essential film.)
  • “Night of the Living Dead” (1968). A sharp social commentary on Civil Rights-era America, George A. Romero’s groundbreaking zombie flick is the first horror film to feature a Black hero with Duane Jones in the lead role of Ben.
  • “Ganja & Hess” (1973). Written and directed by Bill Gunn and starring Duane Jones, this art-house vampire film received a standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival before being butchered by its producers and released in the United States as “Blood Couple,” a blaxploitation movie that cut over 30 minutes from the original while adding 15 minutes of previously unincluded material.
  • “The People Under the Stairs” (1991). This movie by iconic director Wes Craven exposes the horrors of gentrification by structuring its narrative around the poor Black people being displaced, disenfranchised, and disappeared by maniacal white privilege and insatiable greed.
  • “Tales from the Hood” (1995). This horror anthology by director Rusty Cundieff, and produced by Spike Lee, features four short segments that use horror genre tropes to address the systemic injustices, daily struggles, and pervasive fears faced by Black people in America.
  • “Eve’s Bayou” (1997). Written and directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring a young Jurnee Smollett as Eve, this southern gothic represents an early high-water mark in the trend toward “elevated horror.” At the time of its release, this film astonished critics with its narrative power and its overall cinematic excellence.

Besides these official selections, Part 1 (1968-1997) of this series also includes by reference a number of other recommended horror movies, ones that contribute to a more complete picture of the era. We won’t have time to watch and discuss all of these in depth together, but enthusiastic students of horror will want to view these on their own.

My hope remains also that each enrolled participant will select at least one of these alternate films (or something else in consultation with me) as the topic for a brief presentation to the rest of the group.

Alternate Selections

  • Blacula (1972)
  • Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973)
  • Sugar Hill (1974)
  • J.D.’s Revenge (1976)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • The Thing (1982)
  • Vamp (1986)
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
  • Def by Temptation (1990)
  • Candyman (1992)
  • Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)

The viewing list of official selections for Black Representation in Horror Films, Part 2 (1998 – 2020) will be announced at the conclusion of Part 1.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions, or comments.

Thank you for your continued interest in these horror film series. I appreciate your enthusiasm and your feedback.

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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