Black horror films may not dominate the American mainstream market, but there have been significant films from African-American actors and directors within the genre. While most point to 1972’s Blacula as the start of the Black horror movie trend, there were films prior that deserve some mention as well.
In 1942, comedic actor Mantan Moreland starred in Lucky Ghost, a slapstick “race movie” that served as a sequel to the film, Mr. Washington Goes To Town. The dawn of the Blaxploitation era was perhaps best captured in Blacula, a film starring William Marshall and Vonetta McGee.
Marshall’s commanding presence in the film made Blacula one of the best known films of the Blaxploitation era. It earned the first ever Saturn Award, an annual award given to sci-fi films. A sequel the following year, Scream, Blacula, Scream, featured the regal Pam Grier.
Sugar Hill, a little-known 1974 movie, starred Marki Bey as a vengeance-seeking voodoo queen looking to avenge the death of her boyfriend. With the power to control zombies to carry out her brand of justice, it was one of a number of Blaxploitation movies with a Black woman in the lead and a rare entry in the horror genre.
Glynn Turman and Louis Gossett Jr. starred in 1976’s J.D.’s Revenge, with Turman playing a law student possessed with the spirit of ’40’s gangster, J.D. Walker. Walker uses the student to carry out revenge against those who wronged him.
In 1991, director Wes Craven featured a Black cast in the film, People Under The Stairs, including Baby Boy actor Ving Rhames. 1992’s Candyman might be the most iconic Black horror villain of all time, combining the “Bloody Mary” urban myth in Chicago’s urban setting. It was one of the most successful horror franchises of the ’90’s.
Of course, there has been more than a fair share of campy films starring Black actors over the years. 1995’s Tales From The Hood anthology featured an unforgettable performance by Clarence Williams III. Snoop Dogg’s turn in the 2001 film Bones was stylish, if commercially underwhelming.
In 2007, Snoop created his own anthology titled Snoop Dogg’s Hood Of Horror. Rappers E-40 and Big Daddy Kane starred alongside each other in 2007’s Dead Heist as bank robbers caught between cops and vampire zombies.
Comic actor Jordan Peele, one half of the duo Key & Peele, is currently working on a horror film and aims to create a slate of films in the genre.