THE ESSENTIAL BLACK HORROR MOVIES

Rotten Tomatoes’ guide to some of the best, most resonant Black horror movies, begins in 1960 with Night of the Living Dead. The movie was groundbreaking for setting the zombie template, but also through its casting of Duane Jones as its hero, an everyman of color. He leads survivors through the movie, up until its provocative ending, when director George A. Romero inextricably binds the horror genre to America’s dark living history.

Jones’ other starring movie was 1973’s Ganja & Hess, for which writer/director Bill Gunn uses vampires to explore societal breakdowns. This kind of elevated horror has given definition to many Black horror films, including, Jordan Peele’s Best Picture-nominated Get Out, but also the Chicago-set Candyman and the haunting  ghost story Beloved starring Oprah Winfrey.

Of course, horror is there for lights-out entertainment, like ’90s classics Def by Temptation and Tales from the Hood, and with crossovers into the gothic (Eve’s Bayou), sci-fi (Attack the Block), thrillers (Ma), war (Overlord), and superheroes (Blade).

Explore the fun, frightening, and groundbreaking films in Rotten Tomatoes’ guide to the essential Black horror movies.

#20 – BONES (2001)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Director:  Ernest R. Dickerson
Release Date:  Oct 24, 2001
Runtime:  1h 36m
Production Co.: New Line Cinema, Hannah Rachel Productions Services Ltd.
Critics Consensus:  Slow to start, the sleek looking Bones is more silly than scary.
Starring: Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Khalil Kane, Bianca Lawson, Clifton Powell, Ricky Harris.

Synopsis:  Jimmy Bones (Snoop “Doggy” Dogg) is a legendary protector and patron of his thriving neighborhood. Cool, handsome and respected – Bones is the benevolent caretaker of his people until he is betrayed by those closest to him. Flash forward 20 years. Crime and drugs have crumbled the neighborhood and Jimmy Bones has become a charismatic emblem of better times. But his spirit is about to make a comeback.

#19 – TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS:  DEMON KNIGHT (1995)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Horror
Director(s):  Ernest R. Dickerson, Gilbert Adler
Release Date:  Jan 13, 1995
Runtime:  1h 32m
Production Co.:  Universal Pictures
Starring:  Jada Pinkett Smith, Billy Zane, William Sadler, Brenda Bakke.

Synopsis:  Ex-soldier Frank Brayker (William Sadler) is the guardian of an ancient key that can unlock tremendous evil. The sinister but charming Collector (Billy Zane) is a demon who wants the key so he can initiate the apocalypse. On the run from wicked mercenaries for almost 90 years, Brayker finally stops at a boarding house in New Mexico where — with the help of its quirky residents, including a convict on work release named Jeryline — he plans to face off against the Collector and his band of ghouls, preventing them from ever seizing the key.  Jada Pinkett Smith portrays Jeryline, who as a Black female, soared past horror movie tropes and persistent stereotypes to quickly established herself as a vital part of the narrative. A rare example of a Black final girl, Jeryline not only lives to tell the tale but also starts her own path towards adventure and action as a demon knight.  In fact, this enigmatic and brave character is in several defining (and sometimes hilarious) scenes that make this film an underrated gem.

#18 – TALES FROM THE HOOD (1995)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Comedy, Horror
Director:  Rusty Cundieff
Release Date:  May 24, 1995
Runtime:  1h 37m
Production Co.:  40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Savoy Pictures
Starring:  Framing Segments (Clarence Williams III as Mr. Simms, Joe Torry as Stack, Samuel Monroe, Jr. as Bulldog, De’Aundre Bonds as Ball); Rogue Cop Revelation (Tom Wright as Martin Moorehouse, Anthony Griffith as Clarence Smith, Wings Hauser as Strom Richmond, Michael Massee as Newton Hauser, Duane Whitaker as Billy Crumfield); Boys Do Get Bruised (Brandon Hammond as Walter Johnson, Rusty Cundieff as Richard Garvy, Paula Jai Parker as Sissy Johnson, David Alan Grier as Carl); KKK Comeuppance (Corbin Bernsen as Duke Metger, Roger Guenveur Smith as Rhodie, Art Evans as Eli); Hard-Core Convert (Lamont Bentley as Jerome “Crazy K” Johns, Rosalind Cash as Dr. Cushing).

Synopsis:   The film presents four short “urban-themed” horror stories based on issues that affect the African-American community including, police corruption, domestic abuse, institutional racism and gang violence. The tales are presented within a frame story of three young ‘gangstas’—Ball (De’aundre Bonds), Bulldog (Samuel Monroe, Jr.) and Stack (Joe Torry)—in South Central Los Angeles visit a mortuary to buy drugs from its owner, the mysterious Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III). The drugs are stored deep within the building, and as Mr. Simms guides the men through the funeral home, he takes the time to narrate stories relating to his four most recent customers. In his words, “Death – it comes in many strange packages.”

Rogue Cop Revelation – Rookie cop Clarence Smith (Anthony Griffith) witnesses his partner Newton (Michael Massee) and fellow cops Strom (Wings Hauser) and Billy (Duane Whitaker) brutally beat politician and black rights activist Martin Moorehouse (Tom Wright), who has been on a campaign against police corruption. When Clarence tries to stop it, Newton convinces Clarence that Strom and Billy will take Moorehouse to the hospital; instead, they kill Moorehouse and posthumously ruin his reputation by planting drugs in his car and injecting him with heroin. Guilt ridden, Clarence resigns from the force and becomes a drunk; one day, he sees a mural of Moorehouse come to life and demand he bring his killers to him.  Boys Do Get Bruised – Walter Hammond (Brandon Hammond) is a quiet, sensitive boy who is bullied at school and shows up to class with bruises, none of which comes from the bullies. His teacher Mr. Garvy (Cundieff) suspects that Walter is the victim of an abusive parent, but Walter claims that the bruises were caused by a monster that terrorizes him at night, which he believes he must kill.  KKK Comeuppance – Obnoxious and racist former Klansman turned politician Senator Duke Metzger (Corbin Bernsen), a character named for white supremacists David Duke and Tom Metzger, decides to use the former plantation of one of his ancestors, who killed all his slaves after the end of the Civil War.  It is rumored the plantation is still haunted by the ghosts of the slaves, who, thanks to a voodoo priestess, now inhabit dolls scattered throughout the plantation. True to form, Metzger ignores this, but the rumors are completely true, and the dolls are more than happy to settle for exacting brutal revenge on Metzger.  Hard-Core Convert – Violent hardened gangster Jerome John, better known as Crazy K (Lamont Bentley) is injured in a late-night ambush and arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Four years later, Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash) decides to test out an experimental method of rehabilitating prisoners, and asks Crazy K to be her test subject in exchange for being released from prison. Crazy K agrees and is transported to her private facility, which soon proves to be a Kafka-esque nightmare, as he is put through horrific experiences that become increasingly surreal and nightmarish.  Back in the frame story, the dealers grow tired of Mr. Simm’s storytelling and resort to threats to procure their product, but Simms has one last surprise for the trio.  See also, Tales From The Hood 2 (2018), Tales From The Hood 3 (2020).

#17 – BLACULA (1972)

Rating:  PG
Genre:  Horror
Director:  William Crain
Release Date:  Apr 25, 1972
Runtime:  1h 32m
Production Co.:  American International Pictures (AIP), Power Productions
Starring:  William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Denise Nicholas, Thalmus Rasulala, Gordon Pinset.
Synopsis:  Released in 1972, Blacula  was Hollywood’s first Black vampire movie.  The blaxploitation horror film told the story of Prince Mamuwalde, from the fictional Abani African nation, who in 1780, with his wife Luva, arrives at the home of Count Dracula to seek assistance to end the slave trade. Dracula, naturally has no interest in this, having gained wealth through the slave trade, and instead tries to seduce Mamuwalde’s wife, Luva.  Mamuwalde gets into a fight with Dracula’s men, loses and Dracula turns him into a vampire, strips him of his name calling him ‘Blacula’ and seals him in a coffin, leaving Luva to die beside the coffin. In 1970 Blacula’s coffin is found by a gay couple and he is released.  Leaving a trail of bloodless victims in his wake, he pursues Tina (Vonetta McGee), a woman who bears a striking resemblance to his dead wife. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), Tina’s sister, Michelle (Denise Nicholas) and top cop Lt. Peters (Gordon Pinsent) are hot on the bloodsucker’s trail.  Blacula was one of the first genre movies directed by a Black director and starring a mostly-black cast that became one of the highest grossing films of 1972 while also tackling themes such as the slave trade, racism and black love.  Followed by Scream, Blacula, Scream (1973).

#16 – BLADE (1998)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Horror, Fantasy, Adventure, Action
Director:  Stephen Norrington
Release Date: Aug 21, 1998
Runtime:  2h
Production Co.:  New Line Cinema, Imaginary Forces, Amen Ra Films.
Critics Consensus:  Though some may find the plot a bit lacking, Blade’s action is fierce, plentiful, and appropriately stylish for a comic book adaptation.
Starring: Wesley Snipes, N’Bushe Wright, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff.
Synopsis:  Blade is a superhero horror film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name and revolves around a half-mortal, half-immortal out to avenge his mother’s death and rid the world of vampires.  Eric “Blade” Brooks (Wesley Snipes), aka the “Daywalker”, is a Dhampyr who was born as the result of his pregnant mother, Vanessa Brooks (Sanaa Lathan) being fed on by a vampire and dying in the process. He has most of a vampire’s strengths and none of its’ weaknesses, but Blade has to fight to control his vampiric tendencies and increasing bloodlust. Hunting down the omnipresent vampires in the present day, along with his mentor Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) and Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright), a hematologist he recently saved, he has to stop the renegade vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) from completing a ritual to resurrect the ancient blood god La Magra and from transforming the world into a slaughterhouse.  First film in the Blade trilogy, followed by Blade II (2002), Blade: Trinity (2004), and Blade: The series (2006).  On July 20, 2019, during their 2019 San Diego Comic-Con presentation, Marvel Studios announced a Blade reboot that would be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Mahershala Ali starring as Blade.

#15 – MA (2019)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Director:  Tate Taylor
Release Date:  May 31, 2019
Runtime:  1h 39m
Production Co.:  Blumhouse Productions, Wyolah Films
Critics Consensus:  Octavia Spencer’s performance overpowers many of Ma’s flaws, but uneven pacing and a labored story keep this thriller from fully realizing its unhinged potential.
Starring:  Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers, McKaley Miller.
Synopsis:  A lonely middle-aged woman befriends some teenagers and decides to let them party in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober, don’t curse, and never, ever go upstairs. They must also refer to her as Ma. But as Ma’s hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on Earth.  See the post here.

#14 – J.D.’S REVENGE (1976)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Horror
Director:  Arthur Marks
Release Date:   Aug 25, 1976
Runtime:  1h 35m
Production Co.: American International Pictures (AIP)Starring: Glynn Turman, Joan Pringle, Carl W. Crudup, James Louis Watkins.
Synopsis:  Blaxploitation horror film, centers around Isaac ‘Ike’ Hendrix (Glenn Turman), a young college student studying law and a taxi-cab driver in New Orleans. While out for a night of fun with his friends and wife Christella (Joan Pringle), during a hypnosis act, he becomes an unwilling host for the restless spirit of J.D Walker, a hustler killed during the 1940s. Over the course of the film, Ike finds himself gradually being taken over by the sociopathic Walker, eventually going so far as to adopt his hair and fashion style, mannerisms, and psychotic tendencies (including an attempted rape on his wife after she mocked his J.D. haircut).  With the spirit of J.D. in complete control, Ike turns his attention toward seeking vengeance against the man responsible for killing his sister, Theotis Bliss (Fred Pinkard). Ike commits havoc all over town before making his way to the church where Theotis’ brother, Reverend Elijah Bliss (Louis Gossett, Jr.) is the pastor.  There J.D. reveals himself and instructs Elijah to tell Theotis to meet him “on the killin’ floor”.  Meanwhile Ike’s wife has gone to her ex-husband, a cop who is out for Ike’s blood, believing him to be a mere psycho hiding behind a false persona.  But when he mentions to the Chief that Ike claimed his name was J.D. Walker, he learns that J.D. was not only real, but had also  died over 30 years ago.  J.D. had been a hustler who ran numbers during World War II, as well as a black-market meat plant where he was murdered by Theotis Bliss after witnessing Theotis murder his sister, Betty Jo Walker.  Theotis snapped and killed Betty Jo because of her derisive berating of him and for threatening to expose the secret about their baby daughter. After being discovered over Betty Jo’s lifeless body, Elijah Bliss (Gossett Jr.), Betty Jo’s husband and the believed father of her child (and younger, submissive brother of Theotis), accused J.D of being the killer and J.D was gunned down on the spot by Theotis to cover up the event.  In the present, goes to the old factory to meet J.D. and Elijah follows.  Elijah finally learns the truth about what happened to Betty Jo 30 years ago.  He gets into a struggle with Theotis over a gun, during which the weapon discharges and kills Theotis while Ike watches, and laughs maniacally. His business complete, J.D. appears to leave Ike’s body and due to Elijah’s testimony, Ike is allowed to go free to rejoin his wife and friends waiting for him outside.

#13 – BLADE II (2002)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Action, Fantasy, Horror
Director:  Guillermo del Toro
Release Date:  Mar 22, 2002
Runtime:  1h 57m
Production Co.:  New Line Cinema
Critics Consensus: Though Blade II offers more of what worked in the original, its plot and character development appear to have been left on the cutting room floor.
Starring:  Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela
Synopsis:   Sequel to the 1998 blockbuster, this film follows the human-vampire hybrid Blade in his continuing effort to protect humans from vampires, finding himself in a fierce battle against a group of mutant vampires who seek to commit global genocide of both the vampire and human races.

#12  – THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Comedy, Horror
Director:  Wes Craven
Release Date:  Nov 1, 1991
Runtime:  1h 42m
Production Co.:  Universal Pictures
Critics Consensus: Held aloft by gonzo black comedy and socially conscious subtext, The People Under The Stairs marks a unique — though wildly uneven — change of pace for director Wes Craven.
Starring:  Brandon Quintin Adams as Fool; Ving Rhames as Leroy; Everett McGill as Man; Wendy Robie as Woman; A.J. Langer as Alice; Sean Whalen as Roach; Bill Cobbs as Grandpa Booker; Kelly Jo Minter as Ruby Williams.
Synopsis:  Tells the story of Fool (Brandon Adams), a young boy whose family is about to be evicted from their apartment by evil landlords, who want to develop the building once the tenants are gone. Fool’s mother is sick and needs an operation, but Fool’s sister can’t come up with enough money. Fortunately, his sister’s boyfriend Leroy (Ving Rhames) and accomplice Spencer (Jeremy Roberts) have a plan to rob the landlord’s house, and they need Fool’s help to do it. Breaking into the house proves to be the easy part, it’s getting back out that’s the problem. The house is built like a fortress, and designed to keep something in. Electrified doors, a vicious guard dog, strange creatures in the basement, and a bizarrely extensive security system prevent them from leaving before the owners return. Mommy (Wendy Robie) and Daddy (Everett McGill) arrive back at the house, and they’re armed and crazy. They quickly dispatch Leroy and feed him to their ‘sons’, a pack of mutilated boys that they keep captive in the basement.  They then set out to hunt Fool through the house. With the help of their daughter Alice (AJ Langer) and a boy called Roach (Sean Whalen), Fool attempts to escape the house and reveal the truth to the world.

#11 – DEF BY TEMPTATION (1990)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Horror
Director:  James Bond III
Release Date:  May 11, 1990
Runtime:  1h 35m
Production Co.:  Bonded Filmworks, Orpheus Pictures
Starring: James Bond III, Cynthia Bond, Kadeem Hardison, Bill Nunn, Samuel L. Jackson
Synopsis:  Joel, a disillusioned Minister arrives in New York City to visit his old childhood best friend K, a struggling actor who moved to the city years ago. One night while at a night club, K meets Temptation, who he calls the “perfect woman”.  She is actually Temptress, a succubus who seeks the blood of any man foolish enough to be tempted by her. Joel quickly becomes ensnared by her, and K suspects that something about Temptation is seriously wrong.  He enlists the help of a cop who specializes in cases of the supernatural who has already determined that the succubus is the culprit in a series of murders throughout the city. It becomes clear that in order to save Joel and other would be victims they must destroy the succubus before she strikes again.

#10 – CANDYMAN (1992)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Horror
Director:  Bernard Rose
Release Date:  Oct 16, 1992
Runtime:  1h 38m
Production Co.:  Propaganda Films, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Critics Consensus: Though it ultimately sacrifices some mystery in the name of gory thrills, Candyman is a nuanced, effectively chilling tale that benefits from an interesting premise and some fine performances.
Starring:  Tony Todd (Candyman), Virginia Madsen (Helen Lyle), Xander Berkeley (Trevor Lyle), Kasi Lemmons (Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Walsh), Vanessa Williams (Anne-Marie McCoy), DeJuan Guy (Jake).
Synopsis:   Based on the short story The Forbidden by Clive Barker, the film follows a Chicago graduate student completing a thesis on urban legends and folklore which led her to the legend of the “Candyman”, the ghost of an artist and son of a slave who was murdered in the late 19th century for his relationship with a white painter’s daughter.  Skeptical graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) befriends Anne-Marie McCoy (Vanessa Williams) while researching superstitions in a housing project on Chicago’s Near North Side. While interviewing freshmen about their superstitions, she learns about Candyman, the son of a slave who was brutally tortured and murdered because of a love affair with the daughter of a local plantation owner. According to the legend, anyone who looks into a mirror and chants his name five times will summon him, but at the cost of his or her own life, similar to the Bloody Mary urban legend.  Some of the residents of the housing project believe Candyman is responsible for a recent series of murders.  Helen believes the Candyman cannot exist and jokingly calls his name in the mirror in her house.  Little does she know her innocent joke will set in motion a terrifying series of events that will cause her to question what is real and what is legend when a mysterious man matching the Candyman’s description begins stalking her.  The film is followed by two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).  A “spiritual sequel” that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began, with Jordan Peele producing and writing, Nia DaCosta (Little Woods) directing, and Tony Todd returning to the titular role, is scheduled for release in August 2021.  See post Candyman 2021 here.

#9 – BELOVED (1998)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Drama, History
Director:  Jonathan Demme
Release Date:  Oct 16, 1998
Runtime:  2h 52m
Production Co.:  Touchstone Pictures, Clinica Estetico
Critics Consensus:  A powerful, emotional and successful film adaptation of the original novel.
Starring:  Oprah Winfrey (Sethe), Danny Glover (Paul D Garner), Thandie Newton (Beloved), Kimberly Elise (Denver), Beah Richards (Baby Suggs, aka Grandma Baby), LisaGay Hamilton (Younger Sethe), Hill Harper (Halle).
Synopsis:  Often classified as a Drama or Thriller rather than a Horror movie, Beloved is based on Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel of the same name.  The plot centers on a former slave after the American Civil War, her haunting by a poltergeist, and the visitation of her reincarnated daughter.  In his review, Roger Ebert writes that Sethe (Oprah Winfrey),  was a slave on a Kentucky plantation in the days before the Civil War. Now free, she lives in a frame house on a few acres on the outskirts of Cincinnati with her grown daughter Denver.  124 Bluestone Road, would be an ordinary house if it were not for the poltergeist that haunts it.  When Paul D (Danny Glover), who knew her years ago in Kentucky, enters the house, the air glows red and the walls and floor shake violently; the spirit resents this visitor.  Then the spirit appears again, waiting for them one day when they return to the house. It now manifests itself as a young woman in a black dress. Asked her name, she spells it out one painful letter at a time, in a gravelly voice that doesn’t sound as if it’s ever been used: B-E-L-O-V-E-D. The young woman is unusual.  She walks unsteadily, picks up things as if she doesn’t quite command her grasp and  talks like a child.  And, indeed inside Beloved there is a child, the ghost of the young daughter whom Sethe killed rather than have her returned to the plantation as a slave.  Like the Toni Morrison novel it is based on, Beloved does not tell this story in a straightforward manner. It coils through past and present, through memory and hallucination, giving us shards of events that we are required to piece back together and is not an easy film to follow. The film, based on a true story, is about a woman who is raised as a slave and then tastes 28 days of freedom before “on the 29th day, it was over.” She has been beaten and raped by her employer, School Teacher, and boys under his care; there is a flashback in which the boys steal the milk from her breasts, and her chained husband looks on and goes mad. Faced with the prospect that her children will be returned to the degradation of slavery, she chooses to kill them–and is stopped only after she does kill the daughter now returned as Beloved.  The house at 124 Bluestone Road is forever saddened by what Sethe did. Was it wrong? Yes, said the law: She was guilty of destroying property. The law did not see her or her child as human beings, and thus did not consider the death to be murder. In a society with those values, to kill can be seen as life-affirming.  Beloved, film and novel, is not a genre ghost story but a work that uses the supernatural to touch on deep feelings and has no final explanation.

#8 – OVERLORD (2018)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Action, Horror
Director:  Julius Avery
Release Date:  Nov 9, 2018
Runtime:  1h 50m
Production Co.:  Bad Robot
Critics Consensus:  Part revisionist war drama, part zombie thriller, and part all-out genre gorefest, Overlord offers A-level fun for B-movie fans of multiple persuasions.
Starring:  Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier, Mathilde Ollivier.
Synopsis:  On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers drop behind enemy lines to penetrate the walls of a fortified church and destroy a radio transmitter. As the soldiers approach their target, they soon begin to realize that there’s more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Making their way to an underground lab, the outnumbered men stumble upon a sinister experiment that forces them into a vicious battle against an army of the undead.  See the post here.

#7 – EVE’S BAYOU (1996)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Drama
Director:  Kasi Lemmons
Release Date:  Nov 7, 1997
Runtime:  1h 49m
Production Co.:  Trimark Pictures
Critics Consensus:  Eve’s Bayou marks a striking feature debut for director Kasi Lemmons, layering terrific performances and Southern mysticism into a measured meditation on disillusionment and forgiveness.
Starring:  Jurnee Smollett, Debbi Morgan, Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Diahann Carroll, Lisa Nicole Carson, Meagan Good, Roger Guenveur Smith, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Branford Marsalis, Carol Sutton, Ethel Ayler, Jake Smollett, Leonard L. Thomasm, Victoria Rowell.
Synopsis:   Eve’s Bayou is not a horror movie in the traditional sense, but a southern gothic drama centered around  the memories of a special young girl.  The story is told through the eyes of Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett). In 1962, the Batistes are the premiere family in their district of Louisiana, living in a big old mansion surrounded by rivers and swampland. Eve’s father Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) is the local doctor. Her mother Roz (Lynn Whitfield), according to Eve is “the most beautiful woman I ever have seen.” Her sister Cisely (Meagan Good) is on the brink of adolescence, and the apple of her father’s eye.  Living with them is an aunt, Mozelle (Debbi Morgan), who has lost three husbands, who “is not unfamiliar with the inside of a mental hospital,” and has the gift of telling fortunes.  Dr. Batiste is often away from home on house calls–some of them legitimate, some excuses for his philandering.  One night Eve sees him apparently making love with another man’s wife. Eve tells Cisely, who insists that Eve was mistaken, and the doubt over this incident will echo later, on another night when much depends on whether Cisely was herself mistaken.  The summer quickly becomes a chaotic and stressful one for the Batiste family. Eve’s relationship with her parents grows strained as she discovers more evidence of her father’s serial infidelity. Cisely comes into conflict with both her sister and mother as she enters puberty and tries to navigate the difficult transition to adulthood, particularly with regard to her appearance and sexuality. Roz eventually begins to suspect her husband’s infidelity, prompting conflict between them as well.  Eve often seeks refuge with her Aunt Mozelle who works as a “psychic counselor” and who tells Eve that the gift of second sight runs in their family. Mozelle’s own gift also brings her into direct conflict with Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a fortune teller and possible witch with similar abilities.  Cisely later confides in Eve the secret behind her strange mood. She tells her that one night, after their parents had a vicious argument, Cisely went to comfort her father and he, while drunk, attempted to molest her. Enraged, Eve seeks out Elzora to commission a voodoo spell to put a fatal curse on her father. While on her way to visit the witch, Eve runs into Lenny Mereaux (Roger Guenveur Smith) and alludes to a possible tryst between his wife, Matty, and her father.  Eve is under the impression that she is going to receive a voodoo doll of her father but when returning to the witch to get her doll, she is informed that there is no doll and per her request, a curse has been placed on him. In an attempt to save him, Eve rushes to bring Louis home and finds him in a bar chatting with Matty Mereaux. At the same time, a drunken Lenny arrives to take Matty home. After a confrontation, Lenny shoots and kills Louis.  After her father’s funeral, Eve finds a letter that her father had written to Mozelle, disputing the accusations. In it, he claims that Cisely had come to him one night and kissed him, first as a daughter and then as a lover. In his drunken state, he reacted violently, slapping her and pushing her to the ground, which made her angry with him. Eve confronts Cisely and uses her second sight to discover what really happened.  In February 2008, Eve’s Bayou made TIME’s list of the 25 Most Important Films on Race.

#6 – SUGAR HILL (1974)

Rating:  PG
Genre:  Horror
Director:  Paul Maslansky
Release Date:  Feb 1974
Production Co.:  American International Pictures (AIP)
Starring Marki Bey as Diana Hill; Robert Quarry as Morgan; Don Pedro Colley as Baron Samedi; Betty Anne Rees as Celeste; Richard Lawson as Valentine; Zara Cully as Mama Maitresse; Charles P. Robinson as Fabulous; Larry D. Johnson as Langston.
Synopsis:  When nightclub owner Langston (Larry D. Johnson) refuses to sell out to local mob boss Morgan (Robert Quarry), he is beaten to death by a gang of hired thugs. His grief-stricken fiancée, Diana “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey), vows revenge for his murder and turns to aged voodoo authority Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully). Together they conjure up the demonic spirit of Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), who agrees to help Sugar. He raises an army of zombies, who are the preserved bodies of slaves brought to the United States from Guinea, and sets them upon Langston’s killers.

#5 – GANJA & HESS (1973)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Horror
Director:  William Gunn
Release Date:  April 20, 1973
Runtime:  1h 50m
Starring Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, William Gunn, Sam Waymon
Synopsis:   According to Lauren Humphries-Brooks of Citizen Dame, the history of Bill Gunn’s 1973 experimental vampire film Ganja & Hess is almost as interesting as the film itself. It premiered to a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, but was subsequently sliced up by its producers due to poor box office and the objection that the film didn’t conform to the low-budget Blaxploitation style that audiences and producers expected. The original cut survived in a print at the Museum of Modern Art, and only recently had a proper release on Kino Lorber. It is a fascinating reminder of the uniqueness of horror as a tool with which to dissect social problems.  Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones), an anthropologist doing research on an African society of blood drinkers, invites his assistant George (Bill Gunn) to his lavish mansion for the night. George stabs Hess with an infected ceremonial dagger, transforming him into a vampire with an insatiable craving for blood. Hess begins prowling the streets searching for victims to satisfy his craving, and not long after receives a call from George’s wife Ganja (Marlene Clark), with whom he falls in love. The film is not the typical vampire flick, but uses vampire lore as a vehicle to discuss issues of addiction, schizophrenia, violence, and assimilation. Hess’s descent into blood lust is always indicated by the sound of a woman chanting in an African language, a reference to the Myrthians, the blood drinkers that he’s been studying. Vampirism in the film is a throwback to older rituals and belief systems, and a metaphor for addiction. Blood is associated with sex and desire, drug addiction, and with religion itself, as the film draws direct parallels between the Christian emphasis on Jesus’ blood, the sacraments, and vampirism. Humphries-Brooks goes on to say that Hess can’t help his desire for blood, but he tries to deny it, and becomes violent as a result. The film can be read from multiple angles, that Hess’s attempts to reject his vampirism are also a rejection of his ancestry for the forms of organized religion; that his vampirism is in direct parallel to drug addiction, something that not even Hess’s wealth can protect him from; that his wealth itself is a form of vampirism, as he primarily preys upon those at the outskirts of society (and coincidentally, those most often focused on in Blaxploitation films), including prostitutes and pimps; and that vampirism is a form of revenge against a society that will always treat even the wealthiest, most well-educated black man as a threat. The introduction of Ganja late in the film also alters the conversation, as the film deals with her presence as a powerful black woman who finds love and an openness of expression via vampirism. Ganja & Hess presents a multifaceted narrative with no single interpretation.  See also, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus.

#4 – ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Sci Fi, Action, Comedy
Director:  Joe Cornish
Release Date:  Jul 29, 2011
Runtime:  1h 28m
Production Co.:  Big Talk
Critics Consensus:  Effortlessly mixing scares, laughs, and social commentary, Attack the Block is a thrilling, brisky-paced sci-fi yarn with a distinctly British flavor.
Synopsis:  This British science fiction comedy horror movie, marks the film debut of John Boyega.  South London teenagers (John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Leeon Jones) defend their neighborhood from malevolent extraterrestrials. Fireworks fill the sky over London, creating such a distraction that an alien crashes to Earth unnoticed. Meanwhile, in a dark bypass, a young nurse is being mugged by a gang of teenage street thugs, their faces buried within fearsome, hooded sweatshirts. Their straightforward situation grows complicated when the alien attacks them, and the nurse decides she’d be safer staying with the thieves.  The invasion of the savage alien creatures, turn a South London apartment complex into an intergalactic war-zone. Roger Ebert states that the film is an entertaining thriller in the tradition of 1970s B-action films, with an unknown cast, energetic special effects and great energy. That it takes place almost entirely around a low-cost London housing estate (i.e., project) adds to its interest, because as the junior “thugs” band together to fight the aliens, they stop being faceless and emerge as sympathetic individuals who discover their resources. According to representative of the film’s plot and location, most of the cast (many of whom spoke Multicultural London English during the film) were young, relative unknowns, and local to the area. According to the DVD’s making-of featurette, the teenagers were selected from drama classes of London council estate schools, and then had to go through eight auditions before being offered a part.  John Boyega found out about this film from an ad placed on the internet. The cast includes:  John Boyega as Moses, a low-level crook, teenage gang leader and orphan looking for respect around the block; Jodie Whittaker as Samantha Adams, a trainee nurse and new resident of Wyndham Tower; Alex Esmail as Pest, a teenage jokester, pyromaniac and second in command of Moses’s gang; Franz Drameh as Dennis, a hotheaded pizza delivery boy and the enforcer of the gang; Leeon Jones as Jerome, a schoolboy and the most level headed member of the gang; Simon Howard as Biggz, the youngest member of the gang. Throughout most of the film, Biggz is trapped in a skip after he’s cornered by the aliens; Nick Frost as Ron, the local drug dealer who lives in the penthouse of Wyndham Tower and knows everyone; Luke Treadaway as Brewis, a posh student stoner who’s one of Ron’s customers; Jumayn Hunter as Hi-Hatz, the local psychopathic gangster who’s Ron’s feared boss and the true main antagonist; Danielle Vitalis as Tia, a girl living in Wyndham Tower who’s Moses’s love interest and friend to the gang; Paige Meade as Dimples, Tia’s quick-tempered roommate who is also a friend to the gang; Sammy Williams as Probs, a little kid who wishes to join Moses’s gang;Michael Ajao as Mayhem, Probs’s best friend who shares his goal of joining Moses’s gang.

#3 – US (2019)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Director:  Jordan Peele
Release Date:  Mar 22, 2019
Runtime:  1h 56m
Production Co.: Monkeypaw Productions
Critics Consensus:  With Jordan Peele’s second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us.
Starring:  Lupita Nyong’o (Adelaide Wilson, Red), Winston Duke (Gabe Wilson, Abraham), Elisabeth Moss (Kitty Tyler), Tim Heidecker (Josh Tyler), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Russel Thomas, Weyland), Anna Diop (Rayne Thomas, Eartha), Evan Alex (Jason Wilson, Pluto), Shahadi Wright Joseph (Zora Wilson, Umbrae), Madison Curry (Young Adelaide), Cali Sheldon (Becca Tyler).
Synopsis Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.  See the post here.

#2 – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

Genre:  Horror
Director:  George A. Romero
Release Date:  Oct 1, 1968
Runtime:  1h 36m
Production Co.:  Off Color Films, Image Ten, Market Square Productions, Laurel
Critics Consensus:  George A. Romero’s debut set the template for the zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent.
Starring: Judith O’Dea, Russell Streiner, Duane Jones, Keith Wayne.
Synopsis:  The story follows seven people who are trapped in a rural farmhouse in western Pennsylvania, which is under assault by an enlarging group of cannibalistic, undead corpses.  According to Blackhorrormovies.com, the movie that changed zombie lore forever, Night of the Living Dead is a classic not only of horror in general, but of black horror in particular.  The film pushed the boundaries of gore, but it also pushed racial boundaries by casting an African-American man, Duane Jones, in the lead role of Ben. Supposedly, the racial commentary that can be read into the film was never intended, as the role of Ben wasn’t written for a black man.  Jones’ presence is commanding and perfect for the character of Ben, who doesn’t hesitate to take charge of the group hiding from the zombie horde. His character domineers the all-white supporting cast rather than playing second fiddle or comic relief and though he meets resistance, race is never a spoken issue.  Unfortunately, although Ben is the lone survivor of the zombie onslaught, he goes on to suffer the ironic fate of being shot to death by a rescue party that mistakes him for one of the undead. The film  grossed $12 million (USD) domestically and $18 million (USD) internationally, earning more than 250 times its budget.  Night of the Living Dead has been regarded as a cult classic by film scholars and critics, despite being heavily criticized upon its release for its explicit gore. It eventually garnered critical acclaim and was selected in 1999 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

#1 – GET OUT (2017)

Rating:  R
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Director:  Jordan Peele
Release Date:  Feb 24, 2017
Runtime: 1h 44m
Production Co.:  Universal Pictures, QC Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions, Monkeypaw Productions.
Critics Consensus:  Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Starring:  Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, LaKeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howry, Erika Alexander, Betty Gabriel.
Synopsis:  Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined. Indiewire writes, from the unsettling opening frames accompanied by a series of warning music cues (“Run rabbit run!”), Peele seduces, subverts and manipulates audience expectations — as the masters Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, and Stanley Kubrick did before him. And he uses camera moves to build dread. “Get Out” is both admonition and warning, but it’s also what Peele wants the audience to scream at his frightened everyman hero (Daniel Kaluuya). The rule Peele broke: every movie about race has to have one good white person. Credit producer Jason Blum for making sure Peele rejiggered a more satisfying upbeat ending, rather than send his beleaguered hero to jail.  In the original ending, Chris is arrested by the police after strangling Rose. Instead of rescuing Chris, Rod meets him in jail and asks him for information about the Armitage family to investigate, but Chris insists that he stopped them and everything is fine. Peele intended this ending to reflect the realities of racism. By the time production had begun, however, several high-profile police shootings of black people had made discussion, in Peele’s words, “more woke”. After gauging reception at test screenings, he decided the film needed a happy ending, but felt a moment when the audience believes Chris is about to be arrested would preserve the intended reaction.  Peele considered several other endings, some of which are included on the DVD and Blu-ray release. In one ending, Rod breaks into the estate, finds Chris, and calls his name, but Chris responds, “I assure you, I don’t know who you’re talking about.”  Finally, this timely racial thriller, started during the Obama administration and completed in the age of Trump, landed Peele a win for Best Original Screenplay.  The Guardian wrote, the villains here aren’t southern rednecks or neo-Nazi skinheads, or the so-called ‘alt-right’. They’re middle-class white liberals. The kind of people who shop at Trader Joe’s, donate to the ACLU and would have voted for Obama a third time if they could. The thing Get Out does so well – and the thing that will rankle with some viewers – is to show how, however unintentionally, these same people can make life so hard and uncomfortable for black people. It exposes a liberal ignorance and hubris that has been allowed to fester. It’s an attitude, an arrogance which in the film leads to a horrific final solution, but in reality leads to a complacency that is just as dangerous.  The film also depicts the lack of attention on missing black Americans compared to missing white females. Slate’s Damon Young stated the film’s premise was “depressingly plausible … Although black people only comprise 13 percent of America’s population, they are 34 percent of America’s missing, a reality that exists as the result of a mélange of racial and socioeconomic factors rendering black lives demonstratively less valuable than the lives [of] our white counterparts.”  Peele wrote Rose as a subversion of the white savior trope, and in particular, of films where most white characters are evil, but one is good.  Allison Williams believed that Rose was not a victim of indoctrination, hypnotism or Stockholm syndrome, but simply evil.  See the post here.

Source(s):  Rottentomatoes.com, Nerdist.com, Wikipedia, TVtropes.org, themarysue.com, Robertebert.com, Citizendamepod.com; blackhorrormovies.com; Indiewire.