This past week we looked at “Urban horror” movies or movies that generally focus on those in poor neighborhoods that have non-white protagonists. The first real thing to note for this is the sad state of horror and, really, movies in general that in order to have your main characters be something other than white folks, you generally have to set it in the hood. Instead of making something like Nightmare on Elm Street but with a group of teens that aren’t all white; they would have to make Nightmare in Da Hood and have the teens all be in a gang and Freddy would be someone that their parents shot in a retaliation drive-by.
Now, I’m not saying that horror movies shouldn’t acknowledge the existence of people in these situations. I just don’t want it to be the only option when you’re looking for any horror film that isn’t just wall-to-wall white people. It’s actually not until the 90’s that we really see an obsession with that though. Even early Blaxploitation films weren’t exclusively focused on gangs and drugs. Blackenstein, for all its problems, was about an intelligent black woman physicist and her Vietnam veteran husband. One that I wanted to watch for this week was Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde where a respected black physician’s cell regeneration formula turns him into a maniacal white man.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of things that you can do with the inner city setting that are good and thought provoking. The People Under the Stairs is one of those movies where the protagonists and the setting is in a poor neighborhood but that is merely the backdrop instead of the only thing that it’s about. A good example of this would be the difference between Tales from the Hood and Hood of Horror. In Tales, you have the main storyline be in the hood and one of the stories but the rest are set in various places and deal with different aspects of life. HoH is just entirely focused on the gangsta stuff in an almost caricature of the types of things you would see there.
I stated before that I wish that there was more Hispanic representation in horror film. Even if the small niche that African American’s get is mostly in shitty “hood” central films, at least there is some representation of the black community. There isn’t even really a big horror film industry in Mexico or South America that you can find. While most Asian actors in America are still woefully underrepresented in horror as well, there is at least a large horror scene in Japan and Korea. While something like Barrio Tales is at least a step in the right direction, I don’t want to see all the Hispanic horror movies get boiled down to gang members and illegal aliens.
Overall, I like seeing horror from a non-white central point of view since that is what you normally see. While you might not be getting a masterpiece of race relation commentary, I do like when they get into that since it makes it so the conversation of race is delivered in a more accessible package. Even the ones that are exclusively about life in the hood are good to have be a reminder of the inequality that exists and the horrors that take place outside of a movie screen. That said, at this point, it’s gotten to where I feel like we can’t just have anyone who isn’t white relegated to exploitation films or rapper vanity projects. We need to see more Event Horizon type movies where you get a couple black main characters that don’t have to be reduced to stereotypes or killed off first.