Skip to main content

Horror in the 90s: What Is Urban Horror?

Horror in the 1990s: Most concur that as a whole, it wasn't a golden age but the decade did have its charm in Scream bringing back the slasher and building a lucrative platform on teen stars. But probably the less noticed and certainly the least written about during this time was urban horror.

As far as "Black horror" films, the decade's library was primarily cultivated in the home video market with a few exceptions making it into theatres. With the slasher sub-genre and horror overall arguably fizzling significantly in the late 1980s/early 1990s, horror had more of a classic resurgence with the likes of Dracula (1992) and Frankenstein (1994). Blacks in these bigger blockbusters were practically non-existent.

The "Black horror" resurgence harkened back to the 1970s Blaxsploitation era in two significant ways:

"...'Black horror' film took advantage of the representational gap left when White horror fled to the suburbs, as well. These urban-based horror movies presented narratives that were Black-centered, that is, drawing on Black folklore, histories, and culture."

What came to be, "urban horror" addressed a new generation of a Black community faced with socioeconomic and institutional disparities. These films also took place in neighborhood enclaves where the racial makeup of its residents were exclusively Black.

Additionally, urban horror, "are post-Civil Rights era, social problems films which simultaneously casts Black communities as full of dangerous pitfalls but also enormous pride and talent" with "tales of morality and social responsibility."

Here are some notable urban horror titles with a significant female presence.


Def By Temptation (1990) - Cynthia Bond
To Sleep With Anger (1990) - Sheryl Lee Ralph, Vonetta McGee, Mary Alice
Candyman (1992) - Vanessa Williams & Kasi Lemmons
Tales From The Hood (1995) - Paula Jai Parker, Rosalind Cash
Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) - Angela Bassett
Spawn (1997) - Theresa Randle
Blade (1998) - N'Bushe Wright

In the 21st century, urban, more "hip hop inspired" horror surged with over 100 releases from 2000-2010:

Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)
Street Tales of Terror (2004)
Bones (2001)
Hood Rat (2001)
This Evil One (2005)
Urban Evil: A Trilogy of Fear (2005)
Snoop Dogg's 'Hood of Horror (2006)
Zombiez (2005)
Vampiyaz (2004)
Bloodz v. Wolvez (2006)
Kracker Jack'd (2003)
Cryptz (2002)
Vampz (2004)
Holla (2006)

*All information can be found in Dr. Robin Means Coleman's book, Horror Noire.

Popular posts from this blog

How MIDSOMMAR Utilizes and Subverts Horror Movie Tropes of People of Color

By Mary Kay McBrayer (@mkmcbrayer)

For a film that could have been easily white-washed, Ari Aster’s Midsommar does have an inclusive cast. Before our characters are even taken to Sweden where most of the film's dread fueled action takes place, we meet them in their college town. Dani (Florence Pugh) stresses about her sister’s scary email while her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) drinks at a bar with his buddies, only one of whom is black named Josh (The Good Place's William Jackson Harper).
I have watched enough horror movies to know—and I’ve been brown enough long enough to know—that this setting does not bode well for a person of color. The token minority, say it with me, tends to die first. Because of this ratio, I expected a few other established tropes of the horror genre in Josh’s character, too, and I have to admit, I was delighted and surprised that nothing played out the way I expected.

DARKLY: At The Heart Of Goth, Is Blackness

"Horror has always been used to illuminate cultural anxieties and gives a voice to our collective fears. So, what to make of the gothic in America, a place which by the very nature of its founding is predisposed to a culture of anxiety? The dread knowing the enemy at the gate is understandable, but in America the enemy has already passed through it, and has been brought inside. The call is coming from inside the house."
-words by Leila Taylor