It’s really surprising that there aren’t more Voodoo-based horror movies. Steeped in mystery and mysticism, it’s as close to real life magic as any of us are ever going to see.
My release calendar shows me that The Serpent and the Rainbow is getting a Blu-ray courtesy of the good people over at Scream Factory, and it got me thinking of some other good Voodoo movies. Because who doesn’t love some good face paint, witch doctors, zombies, and fetish dolls?
7) Trilogy of Terror (1975):
All right, a little cheating right off the bat. I know that the Zuni fetish doll isn’t exactly Voodoo. I’m mixing in Polynesian traditionalism with the spiritual blend of Voodoo/Hoodoo. It’s just so hard to keep your migratory island religions straight. I’m giving it a pass, however, as the second story in Trilogy of Terror does have some Voodoo in it. Also, I highly doubt you would have known I was wrong in the first place.
I first saw Trilogy of Terror when I was a kid during one of those late night weekend horror movie marathons. For years I didn’t know its name but remembered that terrifying Zuni fetish doll. Watching it again, it’s easy to see why this film has achieved cult status. The effects haven’t aged very well, but that’s part of the charm. It’s a creative and fun flick, definitely worth a watch after all these years.
6) Tales from the Hood (1995):
I’ve shown Tales from the Hood to several people now and always get the same reaction: “Wow, I can’t believe that was actually good.” The title makes it sound like a cheap blaxploitation film, which is only half right. Race relations is pretty much the topic of every segment, but it doesn’t feel like a cheap cash-in. It’s a good watch for anyone, regardless of ethnicity.
For purposes of this list, I’m talking specifically about the “KKK Comeuppance” segment. The whole movie is great, but there’s something deeply satisfying about watching a racist klansmen get torn apart by dolls. There’s a dark humor to it, making the story a decent social commentary as well as a good time. It’s also great for finding out which of your friends is racist! Bust it out at a party, and see who isn’t getting invited back.
5) Sugar Hill (1974):
Switching gears from 50% blaxploitation, Sugar Hill is 200% blaxploitation. From the company that brought you Blacula, Sugar Hill is a revenge story where the weapon of choice is zombies. Using the power of Voodoo, foxy heroin Diana “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey) takes vengeance on a group of evil white gangsters who killed her man and want to take what’s hers. It’s about as amazing as it sounds.
I love this movie 90% for the cheese factor and 10% because it’s actually pretty good. The zombies have a really unique look, with glassy bug eyes and cobwebs. These are traditional “zombies,” mindless servants doing their master’s bidding. No brain eating here. It’s kind of hard to find, but if you can, Sugar Hill is a blast from the past that reminds us that afros can be super sexy.
4) The Skeleton Key (2005):
I have to be honest; when I first saw The Skeleton Key as a teenager, I hated it. It wasn’t that the nuance of it went over my head or that any part was bad, but that ending was just so damn sad. I know that it must sound silly for someone to dislike a horror movie because it doesn’t have a happy ending, but the way that Caroline (Kate Hudson) ends up deeply disturbed me.
A decade later, a more bitter and weathered Ted can see the genius in The Skeleton Key. A tense thriller, it relies more on fear of the unknown than jump scares. The atmosphere of the movie is pure New Orleans magic, with that unique blend of mysticism and superstition. It’s a great horror film for people that get scared too easily, making it an easy recommendation for almost anyone.
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