Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (Review)

In honor of Black History Month, here's my review and opinion of the somewhat long-awaited documentary titled, Horror Noire a retrospective piece based on author Robin Means Coleman's book; Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present. covers various black themed horror films and its hidden metaphors and political allegories. Noire is an uncompromising and unapologetic tribute to Black Horror Cinema courtesy of Shudder's streaming service.

Candyman himself, Tony Todd! To think that he once turned down the role that made him more of an iconic presence.

During October of last year, I coincidentally had a similar concept for my Dark Visions channel but never gotten around to it. Call it sloth or not being able to make the Halloween deadline but i'm happy to know that this kind of retrospective was already in the works as I found out via website that a  documentary, like Horror Noire will debut sometime around early 2019.

For you Horror aficionados out there, visit Graveyardshiftsisters.com

So now here we are. 

Right off the bat, the commentators ranging from black writers, directors, authors and most notably, actors; Jordan Peele, Ken Foree, Tony Todd and my favorite, Keith David discuss the parallels between horror and the brutal history of African Americans within the United States. 
Ken Foree & Keith David. These Legends deserved more spotlight

"Black History is Horror"

One of the obvious but well received segments of this documentary, is how Black horror had managed to intertwine with the Blaxploitation films and how the subgenre of Blaxploitation became an asset to Black writers, producers and actors as well as the motion picture industry. 

Despite studios like 20th Century Fox and American International Pictures using Blaxploitation as a mere short-term gain, Horror films such as JD Revenge, Abby and of course, Blacula! The latter film’s success had demonstrated the great potential of Black artistry while making a substantial amount of profit for AIP who at the time, was hemorrhaging money.

Executive Producer of "Noire" Tananarive Due's documentary is long overdue!

The Blaxploitation era became the launchpad for Black Horror and despite some of the off-putting dialogue and tropes, there were plenty of nuances whether its Blacula, Abby, Sugar Hill and a film I had never known about until now, titled, Ganja & Hess!

"Black People love, Horror...Horror don't love us"

This film which starred the late Duane Jone s(Night of the Living Dead)  which had garnered a huge modicum of praise, yet overlooked. Ganja & Hess slipped under my radar, so now I will have to see for myself, what all the hyperbole was all about. (Also available on Shudder)

I found the abundant metaphors mentioned in Horror Noire, very familiar, yet still shocking when the commentators make the comparison of say, Blackenstein to the human scientific trials in Tuskegee, Abby dealing with the sexuality and fear of a Black Women. Of course, one of the more conversant allegorical discussions in Horror, pertains to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Jordan Peele’s Get Out. This was the highlight of Noire's execution and how it spared no expense when filling in the all too familiar checkboxes of tropes, that I have often mentioned in various reviews, posts or podcasts. yes they really go there!

1. Sacrificial Negro
2. Black people being the first to get killed off. ("Redshirt" trope)
3. White Flight
4. Magical Negro
5. The Black Boogieman and his lust for White Women

There's even a *gasp* justification of why Shanna Latham was chosen as Predator’s hunting partner in Aliens Vs Predator and what made Snoop Dogg blush while filming Bones!
Noire takes the natural progression route from Black Horror's humble beginnings to current and highly acclaimed breakouts like Get Out. For the most part, this documentary covers plenty but there's still enough material to be utilized for a (suggested) sequel.

Here are a few Pros and (very minor) Cons I have about this documentary.

  • An excellent cast of Horror legends from well-known films 
  • The natural evolution and progression of Black Horror cinema
  • Again, the allegories were on point!


  • I wish we could have seen more of Ken Foree and Keith David. They were brilliant together!
  • Although Ashley  pointed out how unusual it was for Candyman to go around disrupting the lives of the downtrodden Black residents within the Kabrini housing, (when in fact it was Candyman himself lynched by a racist white mob) no one really offered a valid explanation for his motives. hopefully the Jordan Peele remake will update the narrative.
  • In terms of discussing how Black characters have made the transition of not being killed off in horror films, there was a good opportunity to introduce Blade. I was disappointed by this omission.
The ultimate survivor of Black Horror! Blade! Put some respect on his name!

With that said, Horror Noire is a great History lesson for both fans of horror cinema and Black culture in general. Highly recommend!

Horror Noire is now available on Shudder.