February is more than Women in Horror Month; it’s also Black History Month, a fact that is often overlooked on genre sites. Last year, however, came a game-changer: The documentary Horror Noire: The History of Black Horror, a film that serves as both a crash course in African American influence in cinema and a state-of-the-industry evaluation.
Released exclusively on Shudder, you can check out the trailer for Horror Noire embedded at the top of the article; read the synopsis below.
Delving into a century of genre films that by turns utilized, caricatured, exploited, sidelined, and finally embraced them, Horror Noire traces the untold history of Black Americans in Hollywood through their connection to the horror genre. Adapting Robin Means Coleman’s seminal book, HORROR NOIRE will present the living and the dead, using new and archival interviews from scholars and creators; the voices who survived the genre’s past trends, to those shaping its future.
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One year after it’s release, it felt extremely appropriate to examine the impact of Horror Noire; we were also able to connect with the film’s director Xavier Burgin, and producers Danielle Burrows, Robin R. Means Coleman, and Phil Nobile, all of whom reflected on the successes of Horror Noire.
Horror Noire currently holds a 100% Freshness Rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It took home the following prestigious awards:
Best Documentary Nominee — Detroit Film Critics Society
Trailblazer Award — FEARnyc Film Festival
Online Film Critics Society Awards — Best Non-Theatrical Release (winner)
Detroit Film Critics Society Awards — Best Documentary (nominee)
Though Horror Noire was a digital release, it enjoyed special screenings at American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood (world premiere), Brooklyn’s Academy of Music, the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre in Toronto, the Black Bottom Film Festival at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh, Columbus Documentary Week at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio, the Black Warrior Film Festival at the University of Alabama, the Ivy Film Festival in Providence, Rhode Island, the Inspire Conference in Lost Pines, TX, Day of Black Docs in Los Angeles, the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans, the 4th Annual African World Film Festival (AWFF) in Detroit, BFI Southbank in London, BlerDCon in Arlington, VA, the Motel X Film Festival in Lisbon, Portugal, the Lund Fantastic Film Festival in Lund, Sweden, the Salem Horror Fest in Salem, Massachusetts, Sitges International Film Festival in Sitges, Spain, the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle, WA, and the Indie Memphis Film Festival in Memphis, Tennessee.
Horror Noire also received educational screenings at Hampton University, Texas A&M, Clark Atlanta University, UCLA, FAMU, Oxford University, SUNY Albany, and Northwestern University.
Horror Noire was featured on “Best Horror Movies of 2019” lists from: USA Today (#5), Entertainment Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar (#6), Collider, Shondaland, Thrillist (#11), Atom Tickets’ Insider (#2), Bloody Disgusting, and We Got This Covered (#4).
Director Xavier Burgin reflects on Horror Noire:
“Horror Noire filled a niche many in the industry didn’t know was necessary, but black people always did. We are always an integral piece of American pop culture. More often than not, we were there, just erased by history. So the impact Horror Noire had in the community I care most about didn’t feel surprising because black folks are always yearning for more content that accurately represents our contributions.”
Co-writer and producer Danielle Burrows reflects on Horror Noire:
“I knew Horror Noire was timely and overdue, but honestly, didn’t see its full impact coming. In a time when content’s everywhere, I’m grateful I got to take part in something so needed.”
Executive producer and author of Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present Robin R. Means Coleman reflects on Horror Noir:
“I am absolutely delighted by how the public has embraced Horror Noire. For horror fans and non-horror fans alike, this is a documentary that digs deep into the genre past and present, revealing a long untold story of Blacks’ contribution to horror. That story includes those contributions by Blacks both in front of and behind the big screen. Horror Noire lays bare Black horror’s ‘super power.’ This is a genre that is entertaining and, at times, comedic. It is a genre that tells provocative stories and prides itself on its liberation tales. This is a genre whose narratives often push back against social, cultural, and economic oppression. It is where you can find anti-racism and anti-discrimination commentary. Horror films also come with a musical soundtrack that spawns hits and vernacular that contributes to the popular colloquialisms of the day. The horror genre has it all, and Horror Noire did a truly excellent job of bringing all of this excitement to the fore. Importantly, in keeping with the pulse of the horror genre, Horror Noire is, in its own right, truly enjoyable. It does not merely focus on ‘cerebral horror;’ rather, Horror Noire supports those who like, and what to know more about, horror movies of all kinds. Given all that this documentary provides its audiences, I am certain that Horror Noire will be the ‘go to’ source for a peek behind the horror genre curtain for many years to come!”
Executive producer Phil Nobile reflects on Horror Noire:
“I always knew the story of Horror Noire was an important one, and that it would connect with audiences. My only real surprise is the VOLUME of the response. The enthusiasm and excitement that is still going for the film is amazing. Horror Noire was a story people were not only dying to tell, but were dying to be told. The impact has been incredibly validating, and I’m honored to have helped bring the project to fruition.”
We definitely agree that Horror Noire is a valuable contribution to our genre, one that will be celebrated for decades to come.
You can also take a deeper dive with Horror Noire: Uncut, a 6-episode podcast. All six episodes are up on Shudder, with the first four already up on Apple Podcasts and other services: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/shudder-uncut/id1453080639. Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman’s uncut interview will premiere there this Friday (2/21), with Rachel True coming Monday (2/24).
Are you a fan of Horror Noire? What do you think of our 1-year retrospective of the documentary? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! You can also carry on the convo with me personally on Twitter @josh_millican.