February is both Black History and Women in Horror Month — and the perfect time to celebrate 10 of my favorite black women in horror.
Black women have always played a part in the horror genre, although cinema, like society, can be a sadly segregated endeavor for actors of color. Film is powerful, reflecting both positive, negative, and cultural perceptions. As some of you may have heard, there is a controversy surrounding Women in Horror Month this year.
There has been an outcry that the celebration in February takes away from Black History Month celebrations, and we here at Morbidly Beautiful want to be sensitive to a group that deserves recognition without being further marginalized.
But, the bottom line is, I write about horror, and some of the best horror films and TV series of all time features incredible Black actresses. So, I would like to spotlight my personal Top 10 Black Women in Horror. These badass females have blown me away, and will always be my favorite leading ladies, in and out of horror films.
10. Aaliyah — Queen of the Damned (2002)
While the movie itself was campy and even silly at times, Aaliyah as Queen Akasha was incredible. She was a perfect choice and looked stunning. In the final movie before the singer’s tragic death, she was so intoxicating, and such a spirited, lust-filled villain that I fell in love with her. I mean, she rips a guy’s heart out of his chest; that’s pretty awesome!
9. Logan Browning – The Perfection (2019)
Known more for doing multiple TV series, Logan was wonderful as Lizzie in The Perfection. Her emotional performance really moved me, and I feel this young lady has nowhere to go but up. I think horror needs another powerful actress like her.
8. Sennia Nanua — The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Having read the book prior to seeing the film, I didn’t know how this zombie flick would stand up to the written version. I had an extremely specific idea in my head of what the lead zombie-child, Melanie, would be like, and Sennia was extraordinary. I loved the passion, strength, and bravery in such a young girl. This film would not have worked if this one character had not been perfectly cast. It was her very first feature film, but you would never know it. I hope she returns to big-screen horror soon.
7. Marianne Jean-Baptiste — In Fabric (2018)
I first discovered Marianne on the TV Series Without a Trace. Vivian was so smart, cool, and fearless, yet I believed she cared about the people they would search for each week. In Fabric was a vastly different project for her. In the Gialloesque film about a killer dress, her performance as Sheila carries the movie, and she is nothing short of phenomenal. More horror films, Marianne, please!
6. Halle Berry – Gothika (2003)
Horror movies are not generally what comes to mind when you think of Halle Berry. Films like her Oscar-winning Monster’s Ball and the X-Men franchise are more of what she is known for. But in Gothika she proved she had the range to also do horror. I know she is amazing at playing dark, disturbed characters, and it would be cool to see more of that side again.
5. Octavia Spencer – MA (2019)
While Ma was not the greatest horror film ever made, the reason it was memorable at all is because of Octavia playing the creepy as hell Sue Ann. She is currently one of the best actresses out there, period. Her performances in The Help and Hidden Figures were award-winning and I was surprised and happy to see her in a horror film. Let’s hope we get to see her evil side more often.
4. Betty Gabriel — The Purge: Election Year (2016), Get Out (2017), Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
Not a newcomer to acting or horror films, Gabriel was the heroic survivor in the third Purge film and Lari in Unfriended: Dark Web. But I think most people will remember her forever as Georgina in Get Out, where most of her acting was done with the expressions in her eyes. She is fascinating to watch, her acting is perfection, and I am confident we will see her more in the future.
3. Danai Gurira — The Walking Dead (2012-2021)
The Walking Dead has never been the same since Michonne appeared with her two armless zombie guardians and a big ass katana sword. Her character has grown and morphed from a miserable loner with PTSD, to a loving wife and mother. Yet she has never lost the gutsy courage that makes her so cool, and damn good at wiping out walkers.
2. Lupita Nyong’o — US (2019), Little Monsters (2019)
In Jordan Peele’s movie about a family who encounters their evil doppelgängers, Us, Nyong’o plays not one, but two characters: Adelaide Wilson and Red. Playing two vastly different versions of herself in one film, well she was stunning to watch. The same year she played the sweet, funny kindergarten teacher that saves her class during a zombie attack. In Little Monsters, she was fresh and adorable, yet strong as hell. Nyong’o is an acting force to be reckoned with and I truly look forward to seeing what she does next.
1. Angela Bassett — American Horror Story (2013 – 2018)
If there is one villain I would not want to go head-to-head with, it would be any baddie played by Angela Bassett. Her fierceness, allure and class come through in every character she has played on AHS. From the exotic Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, Desiree Dupree in Freakshow, to Ramona Royal in Hotel or Monet Tumusiime in Roanoke, every character is superb. I have loved her since I saw her knock us dead as Tina Turner back in 1993 in What’s Love Got to Do with it. Her ageless beauty and stellar acting make her my number one favorite Black Horror Actress.
Runner ups worth keeping an eye on:
Tamara Lawrance — Kindred (2020) – Emotional
Alexandra Shipp – Tragedy Girls (2017) – Funny
Candyman (2021) (Nia DaCosta, Teyonah Parris and Vanessa E. Williams)
The film Candyman was one of the most highly anticipated horror films of 2020. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the movie release was postponed until 2021 so that fans can hopefully enjoy the film in theaters.
Writer Jordan Peele and director Nia DaCosta’s rendition of the horror film is a reimagining with a focus on the exploration of Black anguish over wrongful deaths at the hands of the police.
I was not personally a huge fan of the original Candyman, but this new reboot sounds timely, smart and I expect it to be fantastic. Director Nia DaCosta is also tapped to direct the upcoming Captain Marvel sequel, making her the first Black woman to helm a feature film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is extremely exciting!