When you think of Black Horror director`s, the first person to come to your mind is probably Jordan Peele, right? While Peele seems to be the most popular director under the limelight today, let`s take a look at horror director`s both past and present to see how they tackled the horror genre.
William Crain`s films focus mostly on mainstream and genre. While his film Blacula was not well received by critics, it instantly became a cult classic. Blacula is about an African prince, played by William Marchell, who gets turned into a vampire by Count Dracula. The sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, was released in 1973.
Crain was one of the first Black filmmakers to graduate from the University of California to gain success within the film industry. William Crain is known for his films Blacula (1972), Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976), Midnight Fear (1991), Ex Machina (1970), Joy Ride: An Auto Theft (1976), Nothing as it Seems (2016), and more. Crain directed for television as well. His television shows include, The Mod Squad (1968), Matt Houston (1982), Designing Women (1986), The Rookies (1972), Starsky and Hutch (1975), S.W.A.T. (1975).
In 2019, Crain was featured in a documentary on the horror streaming service, Shudder called Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. This documentary dives into a century worth of horror films tells the untold history of Black Americans and their connection to the horror film genre. The cast also features Jordan Peele, Tananarive Due, Tony Todd, and Ken Foree.
Bill Gunn (luminaltheater.org)
Bill Gunn (1934-1989) was known for his vampire Blaxploitation horror film, Ganja and Hess (1973). The film starred Duane Jones. This was Jones` only other leading role other than Night of the Living Dead, which premiered in 1968. Ganja and Hess is about an anthropologist, Hess Green, who is wounded with a ceremonial dagger by his assistant who was played by Bill Gunn himself. The ancient dagger curses him with immortality and a desire for blood. The film also stars Marlene Clark, who plays Hess`s wife.
Ganja and Hess was named one of the ten best American Films of the 70`s at the Cannes Festival in 1973. Gunn was awarded with the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in the United States and Canada.
Writer-director, Rusty Cundieff is widely known for his horror anthology trilogy Tales from the Hood. Cundieff`s anthology series is another cult classic, which was released in 1995. Spike Lee is the executive producer.
Cundieff`s latest Tales from the Hood film was released in 2020 on the SyFy channel, which featured Candyman`s Tony Todd. It can now be streamed on Amazon Prime. Cundieff`s other project is a hip hop mockumentary called “Fear of a Black Hat.”
The anthology is known as horror comedy, and it is about a mortician, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III) who tries to spook a teen drug dealer Stack (Joe Torry) by telling him and his friends four different chilling tales.
Gerard Bush, producer of Us and Get Out, is the director of the 2020 horror movie Antebellum, starring Janelle Monae. Bush decided to write and direct this movie because it was based off of a nightmare he had. Bush directed the movie with Christopher Renz. Antebellum is about a successful writer who finds herself in a Southern slave plantation during the modern day and tries to escape.
When Bush spoke with The Philadelphia Tribune, he explained, “The film is actually based on a nightmare that I had shortly after my partner Christopher Renz and I moved to L.A. in 2017. And it was a really traumatizing nightmare, where this woman was screaming so desperately for help. It felt like it was across dimensions. It felt seated in something bigger. And that’s why we did it. I don’t know that if we would have created this on a whiteboard if it would have been a movie that we would have opted to make.”
If Bush ignored his nightmare which felt so real and otherworldly to him, it would never have gotten made into the unique, important and terrifying movie that it is today.
Right now, Nia DaCosta is known for her reboot of the 1992 film, Candyman. DaCosta co-wrote the film with Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld. She is the first black director to direct a horror film which was ranked #1 in the box office and grossed up to $77.3 million.
The director wanted to remake Candyman because it felt real to her when she was a child in 1992. She remembered hearing the story of a woman who was murdered by someone who had climbed through her window. DaCosta told The New York Times, “It was something that we talked about because it happened at the projects behind my elementary school,” the director said. “So, for me growing up, Candyman was real. He wasn’t coming from a movie.”
When DaCosta did research for the film, she took a trip to the original neighborhood in Chicago (which is now almost fully gentrified) where it was filmed in so she could really take it all in. From The New York Times, DaCosta explains, “It’s all about, My name is to be remembered, My story is to be remembered — by this community in particular,” DaCosta added, “Because the community doesn’t exist anymore, and gentrification changed the demographics of the community.”
If it wasn’t for DaCosta`s childhood experience growing up in Chicago, she never would have resurrected Candyman. Now Candyman is here to frighten a whole new generation for years to come.
Mati Diop is a French actress, writer, and director. Diop was the first black female director to have her film, Atlantics (2019) in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. At the festival, Atlantics won the Grand Prix. The supernatural romance was soon bought by Netflix. Atlantics is about a young woman whose husband tragically dies while traveling by sea to Spain in search of work. The woman’s husband returns, as well as his colleagues, as ghosts looking for revenge on the selfish employer who is not willing to pay their widows. Diop is also known for Simon Killer (2012), Big in Vietnam (2012), and A Thousand Suns (2013).
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