Editor's Note: Shudder's first original documentary (just announced over at EW) is unique for a number of reasons, up to and including the fact that it's the result of a conversation between two BMD contributors - Phil Nobile Jr. and Ashlee Blackwell. As such, I reached out to Ashlee to see if she'd be willing to tell us a little more about how Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror came to be. That seemed more appropriate (and fun!) than a simple "cut and paste the press release" job. Enjoy.
Horror is unapologetic and unmerciful, taking extreme, imaginative liberties to show us our darkest fears on a collective and personal level. I relished that horror was giving it to me straight before I could fully comprehend my own inclination for transparency. But as a Black woman, it was hard not to notice that those who looked like me in the genre were sparse. And the fears unique to the Black experience, even more so. Black fans saw these holes as opportunities for critically thinking about how horror reflects our own invisibility in the real world. Along with my passion, networking, research, and (honestly) luck, I’ve been having a great time discovering that there is a historic goldmine contextualizing horror cinema’s Black presence in front and behind the camera. There’s even something to be said when we’re nowhere to be found.
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror is a documentary about the way the horror genre has found itself addressing matters of Black Americans and race, told by those a part of building the branch from the genre’s roots and those of us taking notes. As a co-writer and producer, this was my biggest professional, but most embraced challenge sans trepidation ever. I saw it blossom from an urgent concept by Phil Nobile Jr. to telling a 100+ year opus, wealthy with experiential and historical musings closing in on a little under 90 minutes. This was no small feat coming from a blueprint of a 296-page monograph of the same title written by executive producer Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman.
There’s a successful confidence in Horror Noire, sending a message that the critical and commercial embrace of Jordan Peele’s Get Out doubles as a spark for unearthing the Black horror that has come before and what it’s going to show us from here on. This documentary finds its nucleus with Peele’s meditation, but grows its heart with the stories and films that surround its inevitable existence. Compiling hours of footage, brainstorming multiple ways to give this “living folktale” structure, and all of the other moving parts made for a rich, collaborative effort that has transformed into a meaningful, cinematic experience. And dare I say, something that has never been seen before.
Featuring in-depth interviews with horror veterans like Rusty Cundieff (Tales from the Hood), Jordan Peele (Us), Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned), Tony Todd (Candyman), and Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman, Horror Noire will premiere exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, February 7th, after special screening events in New York and Los Angeles earlier in the month. We're hyped to see this one, how 'bout you?