Why Don’t Black Filmmakers Make Horror Movies?
There is an ongoing joke in the black community about African Americans being the first ones to get “offed” in horror movies. Over the years, directors have gotten creative. They’ve let black people be the hero (“28 Days Later”) or even the villain (“Candyman.”) But in general, people of color don’t seem to last very long in horror films. That black people tend to die early in horror films is playful pointed out on blackhorrormovies.com-a site dedicated to celebrating actors of color who have been featured in horror films. Could this reason in and of itself be enough to keep black filmmakers from exploring this genre any further?
What are black people really afraid of?
All stereotypes aside, much of African American cultural history is rooted in overcoming fear and adversity. What African slaves endured is far more psychologically damaging than anything you could put in a Saw movie. It might be a fair assessment to say that the perception of danger runs a lot deeper in black communities. Like the rest of the world, black people are afraid of murderers, ghosts, and strange creatures; they can run, scream, and fight horror movie villains with the best of them. Unfortunately, for some reason filmmakers of color are less interested in making this genre a part of the collective experience.
A great deal of African American culture is rooted in spirituality, with its people comfortable accepting that which cannot be explained. Some things fail to escape tradition. Closely examine the black community’s ancient roots, and you’ll find a people closely connected to the spiritual world. If African Americans as a people feel no need to investigate or question the supernatural, it’s highly unlikely that their films will focus on doing so.
It is also interesting that people of color are infrequently depicted as spirits on film. Even on paranormal reality shows (which are supposed to be authentic) the ghosts responsible for wreaking havoc are always the mansion owners, family members, and tragically killed star-crossed lovers-and are very rarely black people. This isn’t to say that people of color don’t also haunt American soil. Interestingly, the ghosts featured in many horror films are also rarely, black.
Give the People What They Want
Would it be a cop-out to suppose that black filmmakers invest in projects for the sole purpose of turning a profit? In any case, it stands to reason that directors and producers are influenced by the topics they feel will appeal to mass audiences. Is it more fun to watch gorgeous man-made replicas of ourselves living lives we dream about-or to be chased and hunted by some unseen awfulness? A thrill or two is all right every now and then. But it seems that African American communities have survived on movies featuring garish street violence, tawdry laughs, or easy-formula romances. That doesn’t leave much room for the daring filmmaker who wishes to stimulate (and frighten) the brain for two hours.