Horror scholar and executive producer of documentary and Shudder original, “Horror Noire”believes horror film narratives and its imagery helps the audience to understand and visualize ‘evil’ through symbols while not necessarily taking on a literal façade.
“We can’t wrap our minds around human evil sometimes,” Tananarive Due said. “There are explanations in psychology, history and sociology but the bottom line; there is a level that we just don’t understand.”
Where traditional narratives depict the typical villain as an evil spirit or a single eye monster in the closet, the veil is being lifted to now discern evil displayed in ways like black people living in a world that discredits and devalues their very lives.
The film’s director shared he was initially attracted to the project on the basis of it specifically dealing with black people.
Xavier Burgin explained, “One of the things I do in the majority of the films I create is focus on black and brown people. And that is something I particularly stick to regardless of the work that I am doing.”
The film is based on the acclaimed nonfiction book “Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1980s to the Present,”by Robin R. Means Coleman, Ph.D. She draws inspiration from the idea of exposing a common theme found in movies mentioned in her book of black Americans using horror to tell a story.
“In some cases, the injustices that have befallen them and sometimes when we don’t get justice in the real, we certainly get it in the fictional,” she said. “You will see horror being used to expose the atrocities that are directed against ‘blackness’ and often in horror films that is the place where we get our revenge.”
The team of screenplay writers included Dr. Coleman, Ashlee Blackwell and Danielle Burrows who created the framework to discuss the genre’s history starting with the first black horror film “Son of Ingagi”(1940) to the social critiques brought to light in Jordan Peele’s Oscar winning film“Get Out”(2017).
Burgin shared how, “For the most part, “Horror Noire”is talking heads and archival footage. So, I wanted to make sure the film felt conversational, fun, informative and entertaining.”
Coming in at number one on Shudder.com, the documentary proves there is real audience consumption of the collected knowledge delivered by professionals and horror experts like; actor Tony Todd “Candyman” and actress Rachel True starring in“The Craft.”
Watch“Horror Noire” now on the online content platform built to “Stream thousands of hours of horror, suspense, and thrillers, uncut and ad-free, with every title handpicked by genre experts,” according to the Shudder website.
Clark Atlanta University’s Mass Media Arts department and Outspoken Media Group hosted a screening of the film in the Thomas Cole Research Center auditorium on Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. generating an audience eager to learn more about this project as well as the streaming service with thrill seekers in mind.
Students of the Atlanta University Center were also afforded the opportunity engage with Emmy Award winning actor and voice artist, Keith David in a discussion concerning the work that goes into the craft.
Dr. Coleman believes that in the wake of journalism being placed under attack and humanities losing funding, there is a clear challenge against our education and training. “As that narrows, so does the possibilities for black people to tell their stories from within ‘blackness’.”
She wants future filmmakers and storytellers to know that invisibility or absence will never serve the community in a positive manner and it is critical to tell unique stories.
“As a student in undergrad you should focus on learning how to write stories well,” Burgin said. “If there is anything that should be the most important to you, it should be making sure that you’re at your strongest as a writer.”
Similar to Dr. Coleman, Burgin urges students to hone their writing skills to become independent of other’s ideas which results in the motivation and inspiration to bring life to your very own.