Why Shudder’s Horror Noire is a must-watch documentary for horror fans


Shudder’s Horror Noire is integral viewing for horror fans who want to know and understand the long history of black horror from the perspective of people who have actually lived it.

If you consider yourself a horror guru of any kind, odds are you’ve come across a long history of various genre tropes ranging from the ill-conceived and improbable to the darker side (and not in a good way). Horror Noire is Shudder’s first documentary feature and it assembles a plethora of black auteurs to dissect the most damaging aspects of black horror while also praising the growth and evolution of the genre as it pertains to black people.

Birth of a Nation is largely considered one of the first horror movies featuring a “black” character, in reality it was a white man in black-face playing a predator who is eventually lynched. But this film set the tone for years of black representation in the horror genre.  If there was a black character in a film it was generally in a subservient role, a racist caricature, or both. They were depicted as predators and antagonists, but never in leading roles.

It wasn’t until George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, when Duane Jones was cast in the leading role of Ben, that audiences were finally able to see a black man in a heroic role, that a cultural shift in Hollywood began to change things.

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In one segment of Horror Noire, Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman (who wrote the book that inspired this documentary) dissects the “black characters always die first” trope. In some ways, the trope is actually a myth. But what it disguises is actually more insidious.

While there are plenty of movies where the black characters are disposable kills for the serial killer or main villain, there are just as many where they are kept around to serve as a token with no real desires or wants of their own. Most often, their characters would exist to benefit the white characters, whether it be for the white character to save them and secure a white savior arc, or to sacrifice themselves so that the white character may live.

Keith David in Horror Noire — Photo Courtesy of Shudder PR

But this is only a very basic appraisal of Horror Noire, because the film goes into much more depth. They analyze the entire lineage of black history in the horror genre and talk about the way our social, political, and cultural landscape has, and continues, to influence the stories told on camera.

“We’ve always loved horror. It’s just that horror, unfortunately, hasn’t always loved us.”

Horror Noire is a fascinating piece of film-making offering perspectives from both old and new voices in the industry. You will hear the horror veterans compare and contrast their experiences from past film sets with modern-day ones. They run the whole gamut of horror from the beginnings, to the controversial blaxpoitation era, to the powerful effect of Get Out, to what lingers on the horizon for the new year and beyond.

As a white woman myself, I think Horror Noire is an invaluable asset. It is integral that we learn and most importantly, listen, to what is being discussed in this vital documentary. I know I took away valuable skills and intellect I will use to better my own critical analysis and cultural awareness moving forward.

Robin R. Means Coleman — Photo Courtesy of Shudder PR

The final round of interviews promote a sense of hope for the genre moving forward. Get Out was a monumental breakthrough. Jordan Peele features as one of the filmmakers in the documentary. He shares some of his thinking behind specific moments in the film, letting you in on his exact reasoning for choosing certain story beats and camera angles.

I don’t want to share too much because I believe it would be counter-intuitive for me to paraphrase or reiterate what these filmmakers express in their own words in the documentary, so please take the time to watch it if you have the chance, I think you’ll find yourself enlightened and yes, at times, horrified, by this thought-provoking film. Xavier Burgin has done a fine job with directing.

Next. Horror Noire: A complete list of people involved. dark

When you get to the end, you’ll be treated to some small snippets of Jordan Peele’s upcoming film Us. And the credits have some fun outtakes from the contributors too!

Horror Noire is Shudder’s first original documentary feature and will begin streaming on February 7th on the app. You can also find it at VRV

Are you excited for Horror Noire? Let us know in the section below.