Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Black Horror Films: A Historical Odyssey

During February 2015, I had the privilege of providing for horror webiste, Shock Till You Drop 10 Essential Black Horror Films. This wasn't a list of my favorites, well-known's, or even fairly excepted films in general. I really wanted to educate myself and expose to readers different ways of understanding how the horror genre has been utilized by African American filmmakers over the history of the medium. I owe a deep debt to Dr. Robin Means Coleman's identification of what a Black horror film is:

By theorizing Blacks’ participation in horror this way, I am trying to make clear that though Blacks have been part and parcel to the genre since its beginning, how they are represented varies. It is easier to understand if we can think about films such as Nigger in a Woodpile (1904) or The Birth of a Nation (1915) as horror films, or more obvious horror films such as The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) or Candyman (1992).

In these films, Blacks and Blackness--their historical experiences and cultural tropes--are often exploited objects or window dressing. Their race and culture serve a supporting role, tasked largely to advance the cause of White superiority while asserting Black deviance. The issue here is not about “positive” or “negative.” These kinds of dichotomies are not easily applied to the horror genre. The point is better revealed in Black horror films which focus on the Black cultural milieu, treat Blacks as subjects, and their life and culture in far more whole, full, and complex ways. Ganja and Hess (1973), Def by Temptation (1990), and Tales from the Hood (1995) accomplish this. (from my interview with Dr. Coleman that can be read in full here)


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Buy The Book - Curious Goods: Behind-the-Scenes of Friday the 13th The Series

Whether we, as a collective generation who cherish what is now considered "old school," and balk at the literally, endless reboots of what once was like it or not, the nostalgia boom is a lucrative gateway into not only our pockets but our consciousness. There's no denying that the best of this commodifying comes in the form of retrospectives. Thanks to those lucky and relentless souls who brave the terrain of patience and research, conjuring treasured relics in the form of print and film documentations that offer informative grabs of the things we love and appreciate that go beyond to squeeze all there is to know out of media past, in the name of historical preservation.

This year gave us writer Alyse Wax's epic effort, Curious Goods: Behind-the-Scenes of Friday the 13th: The Series, the chronicles from a  late 1980's television show that has remained an untapped well of inquiry, likely with only the exception being the Crystal Lake Memories documentary, until now. Curious Goods offers a detailed episode guide along with cast and crew companion interviews in hopes that "a new audience can discover it" and long time fans can re-visit their love for it. I've known Alyse to be a connoisseur of horror in its many forms for a long time now and if you enjoy genre television in general, Curious Goods is an excellent reference for your library.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Love For The Brothers: Johnny's Horror Pop Art

An artist on Twitter recently caught my eye this past Halloween by sharing his lovely esoteric and practically spot-on reproduction of the Decker disguise from a beloved film here titled, Nightbreed. He was so nonchalant about my nerdy, jaw dropping response, like he's trialed, errored, and conquered these sorts of artistic feats for a lifetime.

Since, Houston, Texas dweller Johnny Green (@Jaylee1103) has displayed much of his visual art to see in real time on Periscope and in photos. Putting his The Glassell School of Art tenure to good use, I wanted to give him an opportunity to speak about how horror inspires many of his pieces and additionally, he brings insight on stories that haven't been told and some of the best horror television that's being reproduced today.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Shriekfest Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festival Opens Its 2016 Call for Entries!

*From the Press Release

Denise Gossett

(Los Angeles, CA)

Shriekfest, the Los Angeles Horror/SciFi Film Festival continues its tradition as Los Angeles' Premier horror film event, presenting an exciting program of films each fall with beautiful Los Angeles as its backdrop. Now, in it's Sweet 16th year, Shriekfest takes place at the legendary Raleigh Studios, which is the largest independent studio operator in the country. We offer filmmakers and film fans alike an ideal setting in a world-famous city. Both established and emerging filmmakers gain media exposure, connect with the region's diverse audiences, and participate in an acclaimed event attended by industry professionals as well as horror and scifi fans. Over the past Fifteen years, Shriekfest has welcomed numerous indie icons into its family. 

Screenwriter Sidra Lackey (right) with
founder of Shriekfest, Denise Gossett (left)
We are looking for original films and screenplays. We are accepting films/screenplays in five categories: narrative feature, narrative short, narrative super short, feature screenplay, and short screenplay.

Shriekfest has a NEW category and we are very excited about it. "We wanted to come up with a category that would allow more people to be involved and receive exposure in the festival." said Denise Gossett, Festival Founder and Director.  "Most filmmakers don't have a project to submit every year and this will allow everyone to be involved in the festival."  This new category will cover demo reels from anyone in the industry:  directors, producers, editors, actors, writers, sound design, visual fx, makeup, etc.  Most industry people have a demo reel and many have trouble getting people to watch it.  This  new category  allows industry people to judge it and then the top demo reels will screen at the festival! 

Demo reels can be any genre and must be 2 min or less.

We will be awarding prizes to the winning filmmaker in each category.

Last year's festival was a great success. We had our biggest audience yet, with a 20% increase over the previous year and more than 35 filmmakers in attendance.

HOW TO ENTER Entry form and information: www.shriekfest.com

We look forward to seeing your film!

Shriekfest Film Festival Staff

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

TV Series, Damien: First Impressions

I remember the day I turned 20. A close friend of my family called to wish me a happy one but to also sprinkle a bit of optimism on what embarking on the decade would inspire. I can't say that any of her best wishes were a big part of that trek towards yet another milestone which was 30 in 2012. However, I'm glad I can look back and really see the growth (cringe-worthy and otherwise) that is hopeful for when I turn 40, and be able to make an even better assessment.

Growing older is painful. Especially when you choose the difficult task of evolving from the residual negative and, dare I say, unsavory recesses of your personhood. This is unquestionably why I have always enjoyed The Omen trilogy. More specifically, that brief moment in Damien: Omen II (1978) were our title character is physically and emotionally struck with the weight of his identity. It makes sense that he had such a dramatic reaction in direct correlation with his prosperous adolescence. In film fashion, he accepts his son of Satan position pretty quickly as if it were a light switch.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Black Women in Italian Horror

Unabashed, relentless color, sensuous texture, careful pacing, and stinging action is a defining gumbo that's easy for many to register as Italian horror. The genre works to invoke a psychological terror that you didn't realize was hidden within your own brain, toying with your senses while being visually and narratively removed from American sensibilities yet manages to be embraced by audiences the world over.

Italian horror, in comparison to much of Hollywood branded horror, has been described as "intelligent, psychological, and adult-oriented," forgoing targeting a youth market much in the way America is known for doing. Lust Of The Vampire (a.ka. I vampiri) (1957) directed by Richardo Freda and Mario Bava put Italian horror on a path that would take audiences to "repulsively gory jungle cannibal tales and zombie gut-munchers to supernatural gothics" as well as 'giallo' (literally meaning 'yellow'), a reference to the hue of Italian mystery novel covers. Using the term for a film genre, giallo adds a mystery element to blend with the gore seamlessly.

Two of the genre's most influential filmmakers, Dario Argento and Mario Bava would go on to make some of Italian horror's most influential work on generations of fans and filmmakers like Ernest Dickerson and even be referenced in non-genre films such as Juno (2007).

Mario Bava's Mask Of Satan (a.k.a. Black Sunday) in 1960 made a splash internationally which lead to a "new wave" of Italian horror films that became staples in the horror fan community and inspire some of the most influential slasher films of the 1980's. Counted as making films that are "vibrant and visceral", Dario Argento is best known for 1977's Suspiria but cannot be overlooked are some of his other genre staples such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Deep Red (1975), Tenebre (1982), and many more.

Virtually all the these films have beautiful leading ladies that happen to be white. Therefore, it's very easy to miss the long history of Blacks in Italian cinema. Black women have been secondary to Black men as stars like Fred "The Hammer" Williamson have been credited for making Italian films more accessible to American audiences. Which is sad considering the argument I could make for Geretta Geretta being the face many recognize for her role in 1985's Demons. Black women and their depictions run the gamut of distressed victims, party girls, seductresses, and voodoo priestesses, but rarely, if ever, the protagonists or heroines. Their regulation to the lesser known Italian genre films has left many of their credits easily overlooked. Below are a few actresses of note and their roles in various Italian genre cinema.

Carla Brait
 as Mizar Harrington in The Case Of The Bloody Iris (1972)


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

British Nigerian Horror Films: Prey (2015)

Regretfully, this round of offering some of the most compelling, independent genre work featuring women of color talent (in front and behind the camera) is long overdue. Prey, the suspense thriller from filmmaking award winners, screenwriter Edith Nwekenta and director Sunny King asks, "What if a woman was trapped in a car park?"

Ebele (Weruche Opia) and her friends return to a car park in the late night after a birthday party. After saying goodbye to her friends, she gets to her car but discovers that it won't start. A man she had an earlier encounter with, Obi (OC Ukeje), approaches and she reluctantly asks for his help, only to find out things are not what they seem.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

#SciFiSunday: Survivors in Science Fiction Films

Why dystopia?

While making correlations between Pan African and Black Nationalist thought along with dystopian fiction, writer Alicia McCalla notes, "there's a large hole in dystopian YA [Young Adult fiction] where the questions of society, race, and minority culture should be". McCalla further offers the idea that young adult fiction is the cornerstone for the birth of critical thinking in the lives of tweens and teenagers. If these books are widely read and the intertwining themes of race and white supremacy are missing, the audience is done a "disservice".

We are doomed "if this goes on..." -Tananarive Due


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dara Taylor's Spooky Music Compositions

Hauntingly whimsical are the first two words I use in relationship with music composer Dara Taylor's Women in Horror crafted sounds. Immersed in music beginning with her formative years, Dara spent her life in both upstate New York and New York City, acquiring degrees in music from Cornell and NYU until moving to Los Angeles. The west coast has given her music composition gigs on films like Ride Along 2 (scoring assistant) and television's Agent Carter (score programmer). If any of that wasn't impressive enough, Dara's also been nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Original Short Score for the thriller, Undetectable.

Becoming a well-rounded music composer has not deterred from Dara's first love. As she puts it, "horror/thriller is my FAVORITE genre to compose". As she makes her way in a most reverenced space in the film industry, Dara reached out to discuss some of her favorite horror film scores, what a lot of the work she does entail, and her deep affinity for American Horror Story


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Graveyard Shift Sisters Is Nominated For A Rondo Award!

With much excitement, I am happy to announce that Graveyard Shift Sisters has been nominated for a Rondo Award in the Best Website Or Blog Of 2015 category!

The Rondo Awards or, The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards are a non-sponsored, fan-based award showcase created by David Colton and Kerry Gammill in 2002. Anyone (that means you) can vote and "are selected from suggestions by horror fans, pros and enthusiasts" then finalized by the folks behind the Rondo curtain. You all have been lookin' out for this space and to that, I say a ginormous, heartfelt Thank You for the encouragement, outreach, and community building we have established in order to continue to make the voices of women of color heard and acknowledged in the horror industry.

I know you're just itching to cast your vote! Here's how:

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