Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Graveyard Shift Sisters 2016 Film Recap

The indelible compulsion to make some sort of end-of-year list has been nagging at me all month. Indeed it has been a great year for the horror genre. There seems to have been more solid entries from both the independent and wide release markets and even some balanced divisiveness that have sparked productive debates that didn't end in a Jerry Springer brawl.

This will be me going off the cuff; no preparation, just working from pure memory. It just so happens that I narrowed it down to ten, not including some of the great horror shorts nor the brief coverage of my favorites from Fantastic Fest. And in no particular order.

The Conjuring 2

Director James Wan very patiently and beautifully creates an emotional aesthetic in his construction of fear that clearly resonates with not just horror fans, but the other $100 million+ generating film goers on the brink of a sunny and warm summer. I admit that part of me that craves romance found myself caught up in the rapture of the Hollywood version of real life 'demon exorcists' Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). I'm not proud of it. I'm working overtime to erect my Maxine Shaw exterior. But their on screen chemistry is definitely a component of the series' mainstream success while still remaining scary.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Love For The Brothers: Blackhorrormovies.com Creator Mark H. Harris

The man who declares "the most thankless job in Hollywood is the black horror movie victim" is someone who has much to say about Black people in the horror genre. Blackhorrormovies.com is a virtual haven that has been around for quite awhile. It was and remains a well of insight that is balanced in both its seriousness and humorous approach to a topic that some of us horror fans hold close: which spaces can Blacks occupy on screen in a horror narrative? While I laughed and took notes, I wondered who was the man behind this project. I mean, really pondered.

Mark H. Harris has created this "NAACP of horror" of a variety of careful and extensive content unlike anything else about horror online.  He's also an about.com contributor and Rotten Tomatoes critic a part of the Online Film Critics society. Blackhorrormovies.com is a dynamic resource, capping off reviews with hilarious screencaps that are at times, much more entertaining then the movie he is accurately assessing. Mark's delightfully honest, conflicted attraction to the urban Black horror film market is a much needed assertion with an awareness if that Black horror films are to make a reputable, mainstream resurgence, we need to hold ourselves accountable for more thoughtful products. Certainly there are countless, unsavory genre films not centered around a Black cast. But Rowan Pope said it best:


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Black Horror Films: Octavia, Elegy For A Vampire Is In Production Now

Awhile back, we highlighted artist/filmmaker Dennis Leroy Kangalee's provocative and original upcoming film, Octavia: Elegy For A Vampire. As original as a vampire tale can get based on its exciting premise and artistic approach. It's a story presented through the lens of a very old Black female vampire whom, after a long life with the burdens of a system that grants her little to no value, we find this protagonist at a crossroads when the story opens. But from the buzz, Octavia does not seem devoid of joy as the journey reads like there will be plenty of engaging flashbacks, hopefully some performances at punk venues.

*From The Press Release


December 14, 2016


Laurinburg, NC – Filmmaker, Christopher Everett via his production company Speller Street Films, has acquired the film adaptation rights to Dennis Leroy Kangalee’s Octavia: Elegy for a Vampire, a story of a vampire struggling with the enduring legacy of colonization, sexism and racism. “I’ve been a fan of Dennis LeRoy Kangalee since his 2002 cult classic As an Act of Protest,” says Christopher Everett. “His writing style and approach to cinema has always caught my eye. I look forward to working with him on Octavia.”

Photo | Erik Swain
Octavia: Elegy for a Vampire is an experimental horror film about a 150 year-old black vampire whose suicidal urges, a result of the apathy in the world, have prompted her to find someone who will help her die. Part poem, rock opera, a Brechtian play — this is not a traditional horror/vampire genre film, as there is no exploitative nudity or violence. The horror is symbolic and representative of the world’s spiritual paralysis. This is a cubistic portrait of a woman trying to come to terms with the perennial problems of racism, misogyny, apathy, and the startling lack of consciousness in the world. Throughout her spiritual journey, we see various chapters and aspects of her life as an activist, punk rocker, and cleaning woman. This project will be a meditation on colonization and lost love, among the malaise of our times and will be highly experimental, formally, more akin to the work of Bill Gunn and Nicolas Roeg and will require extremely disciplined and intellectually adventurous participants.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Monsters Among Us: Filmmaker R. Shanea Williams' Favorite Horror Movie Monsters of All Time

What are you afraid of?” 

It's a question I get asked often now when doing interviews or post-screening Q&A’s since my short psychological horror-thriller Paralysis has been on the festival circuit this year. My answer is always, “the human mind.” Perhaps which is why I love the sub-genre of psychological horror so much. When they excel, these films can truly capture the terrifying ways our minds can betray us. But I admit, there are other fears I have: primarily the Unknown. I am both fascinated and horrified by the Unknown, but more than anything, I’m intensely curious and intrigued by it. What fascinates me in particular about the Unknown are the monsters: the ones within, the ones we create and the ones that are very real.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Witchly Transitions: Venefica (2016)

A young woman experiences an anxious moment in her life as she must complete a ritual that determines if her existence will be governed by the light or darkness.

Written and directed by Maria Wilson

The word venefica "suggests veneration and honor." It has been used to describe women who pull from natural and feminine divinity to advise communities. Additionally, there are interpretations that say a Venefica sorceress is "a female who poisons." With these seemingly conflicting descriptions, Venefica fits perfectly as a story of a young witch named Penelope (played by Wilson) who must endure a rite of passage where good or evil will take resonance with her powerful identity. And she has no say in which.

There are intriguing, dark humor nib-lets to chew on during Penelope's process that rely heavily on our own perceptions. Venefica is atmospheric and beautifully shot, giving clues their shine with vibrant colors in contrast to the fear and unexplained intentions of the characters. Penelope's demonstrative range of fragile, stoic, nervous, and delighted is a smart combination in the time frame we're given. This emotional combination mirrors the way in which we can reflect on our own past, present, and inevitable futures. Venefica identifies first with the relatability of its protagonist and adds blood, sacrifice, nature, and levitation to enhance the fantastic elements that make it so alluring.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

#SciFiSunday: Multimedia Comic, The Last Days of Kartika

Actor Tarik Davis recently made an impassioned statement about being the superheroes we wanted to see. As a child, superheroes were extraordinary others who made tsunami impacts on the lives of people. As an adult, I understand the capes and abilities and personal conflicts as remarks on just how ordinarily allegorical superheroes are. As creative creators, we should all strive to use our own 'superpowers' in the profession that suits our strengths for growth, collaboration, and inspiration for others. Wi-Moto Nyoka, put her rings in music, motion, and illustration together to create The Last Days of Kartika. The "motion comic performance art installation" follows Dusky Diana, a fierce freedom fighter whose mission is "to rescue her kid sister from the sinister clutches of the Phercy Corporation" and ultimately, be an activist that rids society of "passivity, complacency, apathy, sexism, racism, boredom and overall negligence."


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Night-Mares & Crafting A Scare: Nicole Witte Solomon

Mare - night-goblin, incubus, monster, demoness of the corpses, queen of the nightmare.
European in origin. (Source)

Mare is the latest horror slider from director Nicole Witte Solomon (Small Talk) and her 4MileCircus partner Sean Mannion. This unsettling tale coming in just under five minutes manages to tell a well-rounded story through clever visual cues about a man's quiet, solitary day that toys with the thin line between dreams and reality. Certain technical choices are used to challenge the viewer, as Solomon reads 'harshness' in the exterior shots that bleach "the frame and exposing your fears" as a clue to what ails our protagonist. 

As a lover of genre fare that leans towards the abstract, I wanted a minute of Nicole's time to pick her brain not just about the film, but how nightmares are, at their core, very personal to our own anxieties.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Buy Black, Buy Horror: Alternative Holiday Shopping

Thankfully, there are now so many online stores catering to the horror fan in your life, there's no reason not to tailor their holiday gift and make it extra special. Deep in this pile, there are a few women of color running virtual shops with horror-themed goodies that are honestly, too good to pass on. Below are some of my favorites, old and new. Are you a woman of color who loves horror and sells original work based on it? Let me know and I'll promote the (un)holy holidays out of it!

Smell Wickedly Alluring

Shop Ten Three Labs
Owner Cara

What To Buy
Stranger Thing's Eleven - "heavily-syruped waffles with cinnamon and butter" (body fragrance)

The Exorcist's Regan - "sandalwood, patchouli, and incense, with spruce, rosewood, ylang ylang, and sweet pea blossoms" (body fragrance)


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Audre's Revenge FIlm: Flesh (2016) Movie Review

A young Black woman immersed in the punk/alternative scene turns to sinister behavior as the breaking point of her experiences with discrimination and invisibility come to an inevitable boil.

Written and directed by Monika Estrella Negra

If there ever was a way to imagine what a Black woman-centric version of Maniac (1980) would look like, Monika Estrella Negra's direct approach with her inaugural project Flesh certainly sets the blueprint. Its poetic, experimental tone cuts emphatically at the jugular of social anxieties, the frustration, and the anger that (queer) women of color face. Specifically Rae's presence (played with effective menace by Ester Matthews Alegria) in her alt-social/creative environments and the hierarchy of whiteness, to the hypocrisy of its anti-establishment veneer, is still ever present and overshadowing with a distinct, alluring nuance.

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