Review: 'Horror Noire' examines history of black horror

'Get Out,' 'Candyman' and more looked at in smart documentary

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
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Ken Foree and Keith David in "Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror."

Black history is black horror. 

That's one of the points made in "Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror," the sharp, insightful documentary which explores the role African-Americans have played in horror films throughout the history of cinema.  

A panel of filmmakers, actors and film historians weigh in on topics such as "the magical Negro" and the phenomenon of black actors being the "first to go" in horror movies in Xavier Burgin's well-researched film. He looks at black horror dating back to 1940's "Son of Ingagi" up to 2017's "Get Out," and examines where the genre is headed going forward.

"Get Out" director Jordan Peele — he's the only one in the film not interviewed in a movie theater — weighs in on his influences, and the importance to him of a black youth playing the lead in 1991's "The People Under the Stairs."

Others, such as "Dawn of the Dead's" Ken Foree, "The Thing's" Keith David, "The Craft's" Rachel True and "Friday the 13th: Part V's" Miguel A. Núñez Jr., talk about the roles they played and the stereotypes they fought against or reinforced.

Throughout, the topic of representation is paramount, and what these characters meant to their audiences and to Hollywood as a whole. It also looks at the underlying themes of films like "Candyman," "Tales from the Hood" and "Bones," which fought to address serious issues in the black community, and did so with varying levels of success. 

People go to horror films to scream and squirm and have a good time. "Horror Noire" shows that to many, horror films are more than just blood and guts. It's a matter of life and death. 

'Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror' 


Not rated: Language, horror violence

Running time: 83 minutes


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