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Friday, January 20, 2017

Stakes is High Part 3: New Blaculas, Fauxteps and Male Privilege

In the beginning of the 1972 blaxploitation film Blacula, we’re shown the tragic origin of Mamuwalde, the man who would become Blacula. It’s the 18th century and Mamuwalde (played by the fully committed king of cartoons and stage William Marshall) is an African prince who travels to Count Dracula’s castle with his wife Luva to ask the count to help him abolish the slave trade. The Count basically laughs in the Prince’s face and tells him, “Nah. But how 'bout I make your wife one of my brides tho?” This leads to fisticuffs and Mamuwalde ultimately loses the fight. Count Dracula bites Mamuwalde turning him into a vampire, Dracula locks him in a coffin and curses him with the name “Blacula.” Years later, the very same coffin that Blacula slumbers in is dug up and the former noble African prince awakes and begins to wreak havoc as a chocolate child of the damned. Now I know that seems like a silly, campy premise, it is, but Blacula and its sequel Scream Blacula Scream are damn fun films. And William Marshall gives two performances that raises the films from the depths of irredeemable schlock.

The origin of Blacula, a proud, strong willed, Black man who fights for justice until  he's tragically defeated and corrupted by a powerful white man seems oddly prescient to me. I watched the film recently and I kept thinking about Kanye West in Trump Tower. I kept thinking about the absent look in his eyes and the blonde hair on his head as he stood next to HIM. Then I remembered Kanye’s impassioned and emotional outburst back in September of 2005 during A Concert for Hurricane Relief that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people!” I remembered how that outburst felt in contrast with his 2015 confusing remarks about racism being a “dated concept.” Hearing this statement, seeing Kanye next to the dark one, I wondered if I was also beginning to see Kanye West’s reflection fade from existence. Has Kanye been turned? Was Kanye now a “New Blacula?”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Black Horror Filmmakers: Interview With Monica Moore-Suriyage

I have been that painfully awkward girl who tried to get the guy of my affection to notice me. More times than I care to admit. Looking back, I think I would've loved a funhouse of terror, 28 Days Later-like, infectious outbreak to distract me from the neurosis of how hopeless pining for someone who doesn't even notice you has made us all feel at times. Watching Meryl (Chelsey Colosimo) stumble her way in a Argento lit, house party to finally (hopefully) get it in with Davey (Shaun Sutton) takes the complete plunge when carnage threatens their livelihood. Director and writer Monica Moore-Suriyage (@monicatweetsnow) has captured this universally insecure moment with a pleasantly gross origin story of a zombie apocalypse in her short, Black In Red Out.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Stakes Is High Part 2: Who’s Who in Blade & Beyond

In the first installment of Stakes is High I argued that our country’s current politics feel like the plot of a vampire movie. With the recent intelligence briefings, the plot took a turn toward a full on spy movie. Thinking of spy movies -- slick looking actors being all cool and secretive wearing sunglasses and all black, using gadgets to make impossible escapes -- it hit me: one vampire movie contained all those gimmicks -- Blade! The 1998 action horror film released by New Line Cinema based on the Black vampire hunting superhero in Marvel comics, was in many ways the precursor to the Marvel movie dominance we’re experiencing in cinemas today. There’d be no Avengers without Blade. Period.

Blade and its sequel Blade II are incredibly enjoyable films. I can’t acknowledge the abomination that was the third movie. I’m mad that I’ve given it this much of a sentence. Anyway, the first two films are great, setting up intriguing characters and a rich mythology that I’ll use to illustrate how those movies and our particular political climate lineup. I hope that by comparing the coincidences and overlaps, we’ll get a much better understanding of our manic political process and perhaps better ideas of what to do about it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Horror Favorites with yOyO Suicide

"Is that the Halloween 3 skull mask she's wearing?!"

That was one of my first thoughts upon stumbling into Wickedland. yOyOinWickedland is the full name of the blog spearheaded by yOyO Suicide. She's a Michigan-based online store owner and alt model, (as well as stellar cosplayer-- check out her Halloween 4 Jamie Lloyd and interpretation of Eleven from Stranger Things on Instagram) that possesses an alluring penchant for blending style with all things very much horror. But what's equally impressive is her craft hustle helming stores, Wickledland Jewelry and Sugar & Spice DIY where you can find an array of fringe accessories.

I thought yOyO was an excellent candidate for the Horror Favorites exercise that is much more about how we interpret horror texts in pure form. Right next to past participants, yOyO's picks are exemplary.

Favorite horror films with dolls? Dead Silence. Doll movies have always really freaked me out so they were never at the top of my list to see. But I'm a big fan of the guys behind Dead Silence so I saw it as soon as it came out and it's actually one of my all time favorite horror movies.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Stakes is High Part 1: The Real Life Horror of America

In Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot a small Maine town is slowly taken over by a master vampire named Barlow. At first a few people disappear, then others begin acting strangely, for the most part however, most people go on about their lives, ignorant of what’s coming. Only a few people in the town know the truth about the vampire, they know what’s really at stake. Some in the town choose to fight, others choose to flee and most end up succumbing to the vampire sickness. I gotta say, the United States is starting to resemble Mr. King’s book an awful amount lately.

2016 was the year of WTF and it’s looking like 2017 is setting itself up to be a banner year too. With the election of our current President Elect, with the revelation of foreign hacking and influence, with the rise of hate and fascism, everything seems crazy. It’s almost like we’re living in a bad movie that won’t end. When life gets topsy turvy, I try to make sense of everything by using movies and metaphors to help define and clarify the world around me. Using this method, I have concluded that our current President-elect isn’t just a puppet of a hostile foreign government; he’s also a vampire. And I’m using vampire as a metaphor for this racist piece of rapist garbage elevated into the highest executive position of power in the U.S. by those determined to undermine a free society’s inevitable march towards progress and light. Drumpf, the majority of the GOP, Wikileaks, Putin, all of them, vampires. The world is in a vampire movie. Maybe it always has been.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Horror Blackademics: Race & Gender in the Zombie Narrative

Key Terms:

oppositional gaze - an active form of observing media, particularly as someone who is Black and female, and analyzing it in a way that resists dualistic simplicities that commonly uphold white womanhood for heteronormative male pleasure.

democratic textual viewing - prioritizes and expands on the notion that the idea of the "majority viewer... [is] to include the experiences of female observers"

zombie horror/contemporary zombie theory - while George Romero focused on the zombie as a reflection of our behavioral reality, newer storytellers, "after the initial onslaught of blood, horror and guts, the zombies become a background of groans, an ever-present danger to the text's characters and an important cause for concern, but rarely the main focus of the ongoing psychological drama." It is "the mental and physical states of the survivors" that move the story along as allegory for the human condition.

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