My Life My Horror: On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies

My Life My Horror:

 On the Dearth of Black Characters in Horror Movies
by
James Goodridge

7c0a4462-4171-4f56-839a-7e1ab7dc9672You can say I am old school when it comes to the genre of horror.My thing was the old Universal movies of the 1930’s and 40’s. A love for Hammer Studios,with their naughty but classy out put of films during the late 1950’s up until their fall back in the 70’s were stuff of legend.William Castle, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and John Carradine were the go to guys when it came to macabre reruns for me as a child growing up in New York in the late 1960’s. Not understanding why Las Musarañas Asesinas - The Killer Shrews - Ray Kellogg - 1959 - 003 (1)the six o’ clock news would show soldiers shooting into jungle brush in a place called Vietnam, people holding card board placards protesting civil rights, stop the war, and definitely the day my family gathered in our living room to watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral (seeing my parents cry together the first time) horror strangely enough, sports and more extensively science fiction was an escape. Like a drink I like my horror neat not too bloody. But reality caught up to me one Summer night inPOSTER_-_BLACULA 1969. I am changing the channel back and forth on our floor model black and white television between Creature Features, a television show that showcased horror and science fiction, (other cities had their version) on WNEW channel 5 and what other network I can not remember. The Bride of Frankenstein is on, and then I ask myself, “Why are there no people like myself in these movies?”  The period piece movies like The Bride I could understand things were not good for our people in the 19th century and before, but what about now (1969),progress was slow.

Fast forward to the fall of 1971, it’s a Friday Blackensteinnight moms asleep, dad has gone to hang out with his buddies after work,my brother Barron is god knows where as a member of the Reapers Bronx street gang it’s a round midnight and I’m hanging out with my big sister Brenda and her husband Allen, they are spending the night in the Bronx then will head home to Brooklyn in the morning. They are channel surfing. Which back then consisted of me being the remote control, you know getting up and change the channel, yes a channel knob, we also had three networks, three local stations and public TV. Back then we thought we were brand new! Any way my sister is going through the TV Guide and lets out a oh wow !

“Allen you know what’s coming on?” ThingPoster

“ What babe?”

“ Night of The Living Dead!” my sister said.

“ Nice!” Allen said in his best cool jazz head voice.

“ Whats that?” I ask nothing for nothing.

“ Oh your going to like it.” my sister said with a sly look on her face.

“ But what…” I say.

“You not going to be scared are you ?” Allen asks.

“ No I ain’t no chump!” I say not trying to be a afraiddy cat. The lights are turned out and I turn to WABC Channel 7, by coincidence the mood is set by the howl of the wind rushing through the building hallways from an open roof door on the 14th floor of our building in Bronx River Houses which was to become 220px-Candymanposteryears later one of the Meccas of Hip Hop, but that’s another story. We all know the opening sequence with Barbara and Johnny in the cemetery of this classic by George Romero, I slowly getting hyped, Barbara Duane Jones as the hero/protagonist just blew me away!

Keep in mind this picture had made its delayed premiere Back in 1968,I say delayed because according to Mr. Romero the week they wanted to showcase it at a grind house on Time Squares in New York was the same week of Dr. Kings death.That night I found myself engrossed in this movie and also grossed out, but that’s the fun of horror the fear of mortality and the feeling of beating out death, or at least knowing we can leave the movie theater or get up from the couch knowing its just a movie, cheering on the hero or shero as he or she fights the good fight for existence to save the human race,or thyself.Seeing the220px-Hoodposterbrother go through all the issues of trying to survive and be the anchor to a bunch of people who would have been zombie food had it not been for him was euphoric for me.The only other horror movie I could recall seeing, with another black character before Night of The Living Dead was a B movie titled The Killer Shrews (1959)starring James Best,in it the black character “Rook Griswald” a ships mate to Best’s character played by Judge Henry Dupree lasts,maybe ten minutes in to the movie, before he’s shewed up by mutant shrews.Back to Duane Jones,he fought the good fight to the end, but in the end which I later viewed as a metaphor for being black in America ,Duane’s character gets shot in the head mistaken for one of the living dead. No matter what we do America screws us in the end, a feeling and opinion that has ebbed and flowed with me over the years I would submit to the reader,that for some time back then African-Americans did not gravitate to horror not only because of neglect by the movie industry, but also the everyday life,of horror just trying to make it through the week goes on even now in different configurations.

The Blaxploitation boom, of the early to mid 70’s or BJ (Before Jaws)showed that yes a black audience was out there. Blacula (1972), Scream Blacula Scream (1973),Blackenstein(1973),Ganja & Hess (1973) starring Duane Jones and remade as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus in 2014 by Spike Lee)Voodoo Black Exoicist (1973),Abby (1974)and J.D.’s Revenge (1976)which featured black stars such as William Marshall,Pam Grier and Carol Speed among others showed promise. But in 1975 the original Summer block buster and movie game changer JAWS premiered and the black horror movie as a stand alone genre dried up. The 1980’s saw black characters reduced to token parts in the horror movie genre. In my DVD collection I have the rare Blood Tide(1982) featuring James Earl Jones as an ethics challenged relics Hunter.Keith David did show hope for black folk surviving to the end in The Thing(1982)remake and in my opinion whether you call it a short film or a long video Micheal Jackson’s Thriller featuring Vincent Price did some good for people of color in horror. The struggle to scream continued. The same feeling I felt back in 1971 I relived in 1992 watching Candyman the first of a trilogy of movies(1999,2003) starring Tony Todd,while his body of work is not as extended the legendary Mr.Price he still earns the same level of respect in my book. Today even with the recent Oscar’s awards lack of color, with effort we do not have to look to the Hollywood powers that be to be creative Spike Lee’s executive producing of Tales From The Hood(1995) and the use of the INTERNET for web series like Alex Fernandez’s vampire saga Dawn (2015).We are in historic times for horror with the flow of books , INTERNET ,movies, wo etc… the struggle to scream continues.

 

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Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing.jamesgoodridge headshot Currently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories

 

 

Kbatz: Snowy Scares!

Scary, Snowy Romps!

By Kristin Battestella

Well there’s nothing like ye olde killer neighbors, mountain monsters, and things going bump in the cold night to keep you cuddled by the fire, is there?


howawful
How Awful About Allan
Joan Hackett strikes again alongside Anthony Perkins and the late Julie Harris (The Haunting) in this Aaron Spelling produced and Curtis Harrington directed (What’s the Matter with Helen?) 1970 television film from writer Henry Farrell (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?). The suspense gets right to it with a fire, screaming, survivor guilt, resentment, and hysterical blindness. The intriguing, disorienting, blurry film focus and dark camera photography match Perkins’ sightless actions and mannerisms as his eponymous victim becomes obsessed with trying to prove his new, unseen roommate wants to do him harm. Yes, the Victorian house and post-institution, possibly crazy reclusiveness will seem too obviously Psycho to some viewers, but the increasingly angry tape recordings, crazy carness, heavy music, and scary whispers provide plenty of fearful spin. Retro décor and old, wintry styles accent the seemingly sunshiny household, but the nighttime paranoiaand scary inability to see intensifies the strange noises and point of view eerie. Why aren’t there more visually impaired horror protagonists? This tiny 73 minutes makes you love your glasses a little more! Though not billed as a horror movie per se and the end loses a touch, this taut thriller has all the suspense, lightning, creepy family implications, and desperation needed. 

Nightmare_1964NightmareOft Hammer compatriots Freddie Francis and Jimmy Sangster team up for this very moody and effective 1964 black and white thriller. Eerie music and smart uses of silence anddiegetic sound accent the sixties styles, snow scenery, and mysterious country estates. Excellent light and shadow, candlelight and silhouettes also push the insanity fears, paranoia, violence, murder, and creepy ladies over the edge. There’s a wonderful, scream-filled flashback adding to the mystery, and solid suspense filming works for both the nightmare bizarre and the askew real world, too. Is crazy inherited? What does childhood trauma do to the mind? Or is there something else at work entirely? Some of the screams might be a bit too much, and at first, one may think this is merely an extended Twilight Zone episode. However, some added kink keeps the audience wondering how far the terrors are going to go. The twists keep on coming for not one long Twilight Zone, but rather this invokes a lot of TZ-esque tricks woven together – and it works.

snowbeastSnowbeastOminous music and dangerous snowy slopes belie the sunshiny 1977 ski fashions, snowmobiles, and lush Colorado locales peppering this deadly bigfoot tale. Despite the faded public print, a slightly small scale made for television production, and some pathetically lame bloody ski jackets; lovely forests and mountain photography shine along with tracking zooms and killer camera perspectives. And the cast knows how to ski! The spooky atmosphere restarts slightly once Bo Svenson (Breaking Point) and Yvette Mimieux (The Time Machine) arrive, and a past love triangle is somewhat unnecessary, as is a skimpy Olympic flashback. However, these elements provide some unexpected for a horror movie of the week dialogue on how Olympians often have difficulty coming down to mortal levels and regular life after such glory. Womanly angst aside, this really is just a Jaws in the snow clone – one man believes in a monster after an opening attack, but pesky grandma Sylvia Sidney (Beetlejuice) dismisses it as an avalanche and withholds the news because the economically needed carnival must go on. Unheeding people take to the slopes, death ensues, and sheriff Clint Walker (Cheyenne) claims it was a grizzly attack by presenting a mistakenly shot bear. Contrived miscommunication and crap police action grow tiresome and the ski montages are a tad longer than necessary. Thankfully, the period lack of smartphones and natural snowy isolation remain effective. Shaggy Yeti arm appearances create scare toppers amid the more dramatic act by act pace, and the bigfoot gone wild is smartly only seen in shadows, dark windows, hairy flashes, or with quick, snarling teeth. Seeing what the monster does – over turned vehicles, logs tumbling, shattered glass – rather than what it definitively is keeps this watchable despite those Jaws comparisons and dated archetypes. The pace is uneven in the final act – switching focus on characters and coming to a somewhat speedily conclusion considering how we really just watched people skiing for 85 minutes – but this one remains fun for a summer cool down or a snowy night in with the family.

You make the call Addicts

Crawling_Eye_film_posterThe Crawling EyeThe true The Trollenberg Terror title actually seems like a better name for this 1958 SF gone awry tale, as highlighting the eponymous monster effect isn’t really a very good idea. Thankfully, climbing terrors, ropes fraying, men falling and natural fears of snow, cold, and mountains keep the pace interesting. Toss in a weird psychic chick (Janet Munro, the boy who’s a girl in Swiss Family Robinson), past radiation iffy, missing mountaineers, and local superstitions and you get plenty of peril. Great pulsing, heavy music and nice scares and violence increase as the suspicions and conspiracies get crazy. Unfortunately, the familiar premise would have been more interesting if not for the seriously hokey science equipment and faulty logic. The tone is too stuffy and British dry, and the mountain photography and poor backdrop designs are kind of, well, strange. All that might be a cult horror fan’s low budget or dated charm, granted. However, it is dang tough to tell who is who, and the deadly moving mists and that titular eye are too laughable for most viewers to take seriously, which hampers a lot of the campy fun.

Kbatz: Found Footage Scares

 

Found Footage Horror

by Kristin Battestella

 

Addicts, you make the call! Despite some fine performances, period or unusual settings, and interesting storytelling, I am split on these found footage styled scares thanks to that very discovered, undocumentary design that unites them – or fills them with plot holes.

 

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Apollo 18The website lunartruth.com is presented as the source for this 2011 footage recovery, and the faded lines, pops, and mixes of color or black and white seventies home movies design do nicely along with of the time gear and delightful early space program equipment. The cramped shuttle filming is a little too herky jerky and spastic camera flashes will be difficult for some, but opening interviews with the departing astronauts establish the mood, personalities, and secret situation quickly – perhaps too quickly. Sudden goodbyes, landing on the moon, and already being there for almost a week happen in the first ten minutes before some uneven, extremely slow moments with nothing happening and only the closed captioning to indicate the too soft “What was that?” eerie sounds. There’s no sense of awe, scope, or time to appreciate the possibility of this actually happening because the found footage must remain with onboard cameras and can’t allow for any clarifying movement or outside visuals. The choppy, innate presentation disrupts the intriguing conspiracy aspects – Radio Houston hasn’t exactly been honest but talk of the Department of Defense material is conveniently cut off by gaps in the video. Despite the PG-13 rating, there are some invasive bodily gruesomes and creepy contamination fears, but the chattering rock aliens may actually be unnecessary. With no scoring, the tiniest of spaces, lack of oxygen, desperate reliance on damaged equipment, and only three stranded people in foreign isolation, this should be scarier than it is. The bloody evidence of a Soviet lunar landing gone awry would have been the much more interesting antagonist. Paranoia builds nicely thanks to unexplained injuries, missing objects, and others listening in on the lunar frequencies, but need to know excuses, stupidity, and nonsensical turns can’t disguise the cheating found footage plot holes. The deadly hysteria and upsetting outcome would have been far more dramatic had the audience been able to just clearly see it happen. Whether this footage is being transmitted back to earth or later magically retrieved is never explained, but the end credits roll to the tune of We Three Kings of Orient Are. Say what?

 

As Above So Below – The disorienting, chaotic start to this 2014 found footage tale compromises the danger of all its tunnels, statues, catacombs, and artifacts because we can’t see much less appreciate them thanks to the sideways camera or off and on flashlights. Young and reckless Perdita Weeks (Lost in Austen) rattles off her credentials and always assures the documentary is paramount while risking harm to others. She heeds no warnings, argues with the more experienced, and audaciously accuses others while she destroys priceless discoveries for her own transformative gain. Instead of Dante food for thought, the wrongfully determined, spelunking hipster plot comes off ala National Treasure – complete with a first clue action start, a break in to inspect the back of a marker, begrudging allies who only want gold, going underground via a tomb, and following historical riddles through one hidden chamber after another. Our cameraman is also a wise cracking, injury prone, token black guy whom we hardly see. His future bodes so well! And hey, there’s no cell phone service underground, obviously. Parisians inexplicably speaking English instead French, obligatory claustrophobia, Indiana Jones rats and knights, and random cult worshipers add to the borrowed contrivances, and it’s tough to make the cliches and busy footage both work due to the increasing demands on our suspension of disbelief. The finest parts here are when the camera remains still with one person in panic. Creepy old phones and broken pianos below add to the dread and maze like inability to escape, creating enough forlorn without the gimmicks. Real cave interiors add to the Egyptian booby traps, however the jump scares, supernatural hell horrors, and a much too much rushed finale abandon the established rules. Was all the metaphysical worth it? Are we supposed to be glad that one got the rectification she desired at the expense of others? This is entertaining for viewers who fall for the frights in the Halloween fun house, but despite attempts at literary and historical allusions, longtime horror audiences and wise cinema fans will see everything coming.

 

The Last Exorcism This 2010 ‘discovered’ religious documentary is awkward and pretentious to start with contradictory interviews and a quack minister as its subject. Do we scoff or go with the unscrupulous trick crucifix? Perhaps the lip service narrations provide the desired fakery tone, but there’s no need to overtake the Louisiana visuals and local interviewees’ superstitious state of mind. Patronizing and preachy telling instead of showing may put off viewers, but the talk of demons, Lucifer, and exorcist history add a much needed edge. Bizarre humor and resentment of the camera add dimension as well – hidden filming or distant silent observation build secrecy as blame, suggested mistreatments, and apparent abuses mount. Do the investigation methods of this hack minister encourage superstition where medicine is needed? Is this crappy dog and pony show giving believers what they want helpful or risking a young girl’s life? Medical consequences, spooky circumstances, disturbing familial twists, and freaky camera witnessing escalate the possessed or crazy debate, but hysterical, herky-jerky visuals and swerving camera action are distractingly obvious, taking away from the well done demonic ambiguity because the viewer is overly aware of the confusing, frenetic film making. One too many twists, red herrings, and foreshadowing that gives everything away happen too many times in this frustrating 90 minutes, and like all people who don’t realize they are in a horror movie, no one ever simply leaves or goes for help. Ironically, I’m not sure this is really a horror movie but rather a backwater thriller with tacked on supernatural elements, and I don’t care to see The Last Exorcism Part 2 either.

 

The Quiet OnesThis 2014 nuHammer mix of science and supernatural has a great atmosphere to start. The isolated British setting, 1974 style, and on form, age appropriate cast lend a serious, mature tone. Cool, old time equipment and clunky cameras add to the grainy film feelings and harken toward a classic Hammer design. Where is the line between evil and mental illness? Do you seek a doctor or a priest for your affliction? These questions and a touch of kinky suggestion are smartly played instead of going for today’s depraved sensationalism. The PG-13 rating wasn’t as bad as I feared, but wise horror viewers can tell the editing is designed to toe the ratings line with near bathtub nudity, scandalous bedrooms, and only a few blood and gory scenes. Mixing the traditional shooting with found footage style designs also seems amiss – calling attention to this gimmicky effect is too on the nose, and the shaky dropping the camera moments feel more funny and annoying than scary startling. We’ve seen better crazed or disturbia elsewhere, so the debate on torturing a young patient in an experiment on possession or illness feels weak amid the series of loosely held together Ghost Hunters bumps and metaphysical double talk. The parapsychology possibilities and unfulfilled back-story on mental repression, evil channeling, and occult history won’t be enough for horror audiences expecting more scares, and the final half hour unravels into a mess of this twist, that twist, a ye olde library research montage, and another twisty twist. This is watchable for younger audiences today, but there is definitely a lingering, unfinished, or too many hands in the pot behind the scenes feeling overshadowing the potential here. I kind of feel like I’ve only seen half the movie and wonder where the rest of the footage is!

 

An interview with Kristin Battestella

Our featured author for episode 116 of the Horror Addicts podcast is Kristin Battestella. Kristin has been a staff member at horroraddicts.net for a couple of years now and also contributed several articles to the Horror Addicts Guide To Life. Kristin will be reading an excerpt from her Fate and Fangs series for episode 116. Recently I asked her some questions about her writing:

When did you start writing?

unnamedI hope it doesn’t sound too pretentious, but I started really early, about when I was eight and nine years old. My mom saved all the stuff I used to write and wrote the dates on them. Those are, of course, pretty bad! I even showed them at several kids book events I did and saw I had spelled ‘author’ as ‘arthur’! I was always dressing up and making up stories and couldn’t keep track of what I was doing anymore, so I started writing it down. Early on it was mostly fantasy and science fiction stories before I started submitting to contests in high school and writing ice hockey articles for some local magazines. After writing part-time for my local newspaper and working in senior healthcare, I started looking into e-publishing for all my vampire stories. So really, I’ve been writing for over twenty years, so it is more a question of when wasn’t I a writer or telling stories, because I feel like I always have been.

What got you to start loving horror?

Wow, back when I started writing horror in the late nineties, there really wasn’t that much to read. Just King, Rice, the biggies you know. So I wrote what I wanted to read, first and foremost for myself. I was interested in exploring good and evil and consequences. I like vice in fiction, a way to explore danger and fear without actually doing anything scary! I think that came from watching a lot of paranormal shows and scary movies as a kid. I wasn’t afraid watching, but more fascinated with why the scares work in making you jump and scream. Why are fear and adrenaline so connected? Why do we enjoy scaring ourselves and activating that fight or flight response? I watched a lot of The Twilight Zone, and I used to study scenes in Psycho and Alien to see what is so frightening in them. I like the mirror to nature genre examination. In horror, it is okay to say that violation of the home or body and all we hold dear is scary to us. I do still write fantasy and SF, I have to alternate and give the scares a break at times, but I like the healthy exploration of fear or monstrosity.

What was the inspiration behind the Fate and Fangs series?

When The Vampire Family was first published in 2008 with Eternal Press, there was a lot of material 13485078that didn’t make it into the final novel. The timeline jumps around and there are several family members that come and go through the ages, and The Vampire Family was more about the centuries old coven wars between the Welshires and Lilithan vampires, so the more quiet, personal vampire stories didn’t quite fit. Instead of going right to the next novel, I wanted to have the bit of ‘getting to know you’ vampires through history moments in between with specific over reaching themes. So you have Love, Punishment, Struggle, Debauchery, Lust, Humanity, and Resurrection with each asking but not always answering the questions about choosing between good and evil, i.e. Fate and Fangs. Each also takes place in a different era, from Viking times to colonial America, and post war speakeasies. I like having vampires pop up in unusual times and places.

Tell us about how you got involved with Morning Coffee?

Morning Coffee is the flagship show for the RadioVision Network here in South Jersey. One of my fellow local paranormal authors I met through the NJ Authors Network Stefani Milan invited me as a guest to her show focusing on books and writers on the network, called Read All About It. When I spoke to the staff more after they heard about all the cool horror media talk in Horror Addicts Guide to Life, they invited me as a recurring guest to talk about movies, television, and where to watch options. I just started not that long ago, but hopefully it’s an informative segment for audiences looking to cut the cable cord and find more of what’s out there then what the box office tells you. Also, you can see how pale I really am in the video archive on the radiovisionnetwork.com website!

What are some of your favorite TV shows and movies?

13485083Addicts who’ve read my articles here know I love Dark Shadows and old school Hammer and Universal scares. Most of what I like is older and spooky, but I love mainstream classics, too. My favorite movie is The Searchers, actually, a John Wayne western, and my favorite actor is Montgomery Clift. One of my all time television faves is Blake’s 7, with Homicide: Life on the Street a close second. I tend to lead towards more British shows, too, but I’m behind on all the big franchises. I’m more into Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings, which somehow, makes me feel old now more than watching old movies!

What will you be reading for episode 116 of the podcast?

 My reading tonight is a condensed version of  Resurrection: Stephanie 12348944after the Lilithan, Book 7 in my Fate and Fang: Tales from the Vampire Family novella series with Muse It Up Publishing.  The series is a set of personal vampire vignettes in between my first The Vampire Family novel and the sequel I’m working on now, tentatively called Requiem for The Vampire Family, so this is a bit of the middle piece catching up what has already happened and bridging what will come next. In Resurrection, former vampire Stephanie frets on the human ho-hum and has a disturbing visit with the mysterious and magical Mestiphles – who gives and takes life as he sees fit. I’m not sure if my reading is perfect, though. I think I flubbed up a few times on my own character names – you aren’t thinking about if they are easy to pronounce when you only write them! However, I really enjoyed doing a dramatic reading. I do read all my writing aloud when I write it as a final editing polish, but it is very cool to know others will hear it this time! So, thank you for the opportunity, Addicts, and I hope you enjoy it!

Where can you we find you online?

Where am I not online? Truly I prefer meeting friends in person, so if you are a nearby Horror Addict or writer, keep an eye on the NJ Authors Network for upcoming workshops:http://njauthorsnetwork.com/My horror and Fate and Fangs pages:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vampire-Family/157922293588http://vampfam.blogspot.com/
If you haven’t browsed already, you can find more of my treats here under the easy to pronounce Kbatz label:https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/author/kbattz/