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Black History Month may be over, but it’s always the right time to celebrate Black contributions to horror, cinema, and beyond.

February was Black History Month, and Donna That Dead celebrated by bringing you a weekly dose of outstanding Black Horror. If you missed any of the episodes, now is a great time to catch up on all the must-see movie recommendations from Donna and her listeners. Although Black History Month may only be one month out of the year, celebrating diversity in horror and honoring great Black and marginalized voices in the genre should be a year-long commitment.

Begin by pushing play on the episode above to explore some of the best Black survivors in Horror films, as submitted by the listeners of the Donna Tha Dead show — along with a few of Donna’s personal favorites.

Racial minorities do not receive as much representation in films as white people. According to Wikipedia, 74% of horror films are white, with 11% being Black. When minorities do appear, they tend to have a minor role in the plot. Historically, black males have been given recognition in the film genre as the best friend character or the first victim in horror movies. Though the once-famous “The Brother Always Dies First” trope originally coined by film critic Roger Ebert has been disproven (Complex compiled a survey of 50 horror films starring black actors. Only in 5 of these (10%) did a black character die first), black characters rarely get to be the primary protagonists. 

Minority characters notably receive a lack of character development, especially in comparison to their white counterparts.

Thus, when a Horror film gives us a great Black character — especially one that survives the entire film as one of the central protagonists — we absolutely love to see it.

THE HOUSE ON SKULL MOUNTAIN (1974)

Join us as we take a visit to The House on Skull Mountain (1974). When a group of estranged relatives arrive at a creepy house for a will reading, strange events surround them, and death is around every corner. A lesser-known Blaxploitation horror mystery film directed by Ron Honthaner, I have some strong views about it, but there’s also a lot of fun to be had with this voodoo supernatural horror film.

GANJA AND HESS (1973)

Ganja and Hess

Ganja and Hess (1973) is a Blaxploitation film directed by Bill Gunn is one of my absolute favorites and is one of the sexiest vampire films ever. It was revered when it debuted at Cannes but got buried in the US, leading Gunn to pen a famous letter about reviewers’ racism. The film artfully depicts a wealthy anthropologist Dr Hess Green (Duane Jones), who is stabbed by his assistant George (Gunn) with an ancient African ceremonial dagger before George kills himself. The dagger turns Hess into a vampire, and further complications ensue when George’s widow Ganja (Marlene Clark) comes to Hess’ home looking for her husband, and the two fall hopelessly in love.

With striking visuals, thoughtful metaphors, raw sexuality, and sizzling dialogue, it offers a unique perspective on African-American identity. A breathtaking union of arthouse and blaxploitation horror, it’s a stunning film that deserves all its long overdue flowers.

EVE’S BAYOU (1997)

Eve’s Bayou (1997) is a Southern Gothic horror story that leaves a huge imprint after watching. It’s a film by Kasi Lemmons that explores Black girlhood, family trauma, and youth confusion. It’s a classic for many reason, not the least of which is the way it creates a space for Black voices to shine in a time when white-centered films dominated horror. The film draws on the history of chattel slavery in Louisiana and contextualizes Eve’s memories within the experiences of descendants of enslaved people in the middle of the twentieth century. Lemmons said that the writing process was therapeutic and that “there are definitely pieces of my family in it”. 

BAND OF THE HAND (1986)

On this episode, I’m talking about a favorite of mine from when I was a teen, Band of the Hand (1986) — a neo-noir action film directed by Paul Michael Glaser and produced by Michael Mann (Manhunter). Five teenage delinquents, a Vietnam Vet, and a drug lord are all in the urban jungle of Miami. Part Mod Squad, part A-Team, and part Miami Vice; it’s not horror, but it makes for a fun, underrated 80s classic — and the soundtrack is insane!

ABOUT THE SHOW:

Donna Tha Dead

Donna Tha Dead is a podcast for lovers of horror, cult classics, and other genres of cinemas. Your host, Donna, is a confirmed ghost story and horror film addict.  To those that can hear Donna’s voice, she invites you to come hold her hand in the darkness and listen.

New episodes typically post every other week, and you can listen right here on morbidlybeautiful.com or wherever you get your favorite podcasts.

You can connect with Donna on Instagram and Twitter @donna_tha_dead.

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