The first horror film I ever watched was “Child’s Play” — the first installment of the infamous movie franchise about a possessed doll by the name of Chucky. After watching that movie, I was extremely frightened of the evil little serial killer possessed doll. I remember going to my mom’s job at our local flea market after school and going on some walks around the shopping location whenever I’d get bored. The flea market was a maze of clothing stores, food spots, nail salons, jewelry stores and anything else you could imagine. From this array of stores, I had ONE store that was strictly off limits on my route of exploration. See, this was a clothing store that appeared identical to the others around it, except for the life-size Chucky doll proudly hanging above the register. I considered the store cursed and the sight of it made the hairs on my neck stand. After seeing the doll, I swore to never explore by that area of the flea market ever again.
Despite my grudge against the manager of that store and my fear of Chucky, I actually became a huge horror movie fan after elementary school. I’ve watched an unhealthy amount of horror movies that span a handful of subgenres and different continents. Despite this obsession, I’ve realized that the horror movie industry within the United States has a huge issue: lack of representation for BIPOC.
While this may not seem like an issue at first since BIPOC are sporadically featured within horror movies, it still rings true since these actors often fall into predictable tropes. BIPOC characters are usually the character that must be sacrificed, the token BIPOC character in an all-white group, or some weird demon/spirit connected person that the all-white cast must consult for spiritual information. Rarely are BIPOC allowed the space in films to be the main characters of these entertaining alternate realities. This not only ignores, but also actively excludes BIPOC from being able to enjoy and feel represented within the screen and movies we love to consume.
Due to this issue, I’ve compiled a couple of movies that center BIPOC actors or directors to diversify your spooky season movie marathons.
- “Blood Quantum” (2019)
This movie gives a refreshing take on the oversaturated and repetitive zombie genre. “Blood Quantum” is a Native horror movie gem that focuses on the rise of a zombie plague around the Mi’qmaq community of Red Crow. Despite being immune to the plague, the residents must face the reality that the plague is creating within the world around them, such as white residents attempting to reach the reservation. This film balances the reality of a gory zombie apocalypse with the reality of current Indigenous history. The movie is laced with subtle hints of the legacy of foster camps, high rates of alcohol abuse, missing Indigenous women and the oral traditions that carry all of the beliefs within this vibrant community.
- “La Llorona” (2019)
Not to be confused with the other 2019 film about this Latinx legend, “La Llorona” features a story that provides fear through its mixture of reality, horror and fantasy. It combines the reality of Mayan genocide within Guatemala by utilizing the legend of the weeping woman, known by many Latinxs as la llorona. During a military attack on the Mayan community ordered by Gen. Enrique Monteverde, the main characters, Alma and her kids, are killed. After evading any form of justice for the attack, Gen. Enrique lives his life with a deteriorating mental state full of paranoia. Soon after, Alma returns to work (and life) for Gen. Enrique before eerie events start to unfold.
- “Get Out” (2017)
I had to include Jordan Peele’s debut film in this list of recommendations. If you still haven’t gotten around to watching the movie, consider this a sign. “Get Out” revolves around an interracial couple’s decision that changes their lives. The lead character Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, take some time over the weekend to make their relationship official by introducing Chris to Rose’s parents. Despite feeling like her parents are trying to overcompensate to prove that they are not racist since he is Black, it definitely feels tense through their introduction. Throughout the following days, the events that unfold progressively get eerier and straight up weird. The film culminates with Chris finding out things about his girlfriend’s family that will leave you shocked and likely grasping onto your seat. Peele uses innovative shot sequences and a harrowing storyline to provide commentary on the state of racial relations in the United States. Despite the memes that have been made, this film is a must-watch for a serious look at the dangers that the United States must overcome still.
- “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003)
If you like plot twists, I cannot recommend this movie enough to you. This film is inspired by the Korean legend of “Janghwa Heungryeonjeon” and portrays it in an incredibly refreshing manner. “A Tale of Two Sisters” centers the teenage sisters Su-mi and Su-yeon after Su-mi returns from a mental hospital. After being reunited with each other, the sisters have to deal with the wife of their father, Eun-joo, which is obnoxiously meticulous, and they quickly begin to dislike her (honestly who doesn’t). We follow the pair as they try to continue on with their regular lives. but strange events start to happen within the house that leads to chaos. While it may seem that you understand what’s happening, the ending will definitely reveal that the reality of what’s going on is much more dark than any ghost you’d expect.
- “Ojos de Madera” (2017)
This harrowing psychological thriller is the director’s debut film which took around a decade to complete. As expected, it really is that good. Described by many as a tale of children’s horror tailored for grown audiences, the story within the movie is one that blurs the line between fantasy and reality for a young child. Victor is a kid that must live his childhood through visions and hallucinations that reveal things that adults may not understand. With the overwhelming reminders of his parent’s death that appear before him, Victor loses the ability to speak but must live through this state that threatens his sanity. While not intended to be a horror film, this film will definitely not let you sleep afterwards.
- “Ganja & Hess” (1973)
This is probably the oldest film mentioned but it’s definitely a staple within the vampire subgenre. “Ganja & Hess” almost ignores the fact that it’s a vampire film and centers a variety of different topics, such as romance, addiction, aesthetics, and black identity. The film revolves around the love affair of Dr. Hess and his assistant’s wife, Ganja, after his assistant stabs Hess with an ancient dagger. The experimental horror film is not exactly what you’d put on when you want to get scared to the point where you feel like you might hurl, but it sheds light on the reality of the Black community during this time period.
While this list does not capture all of the greatness of BIPOC actors and directors within the horror industry, it provides an entry way for those looking to make their Halloween watchlist a bit more diverse. There definitely needs to be more representation within the horror sphere and as an avid horror fanatic, I hope to see more BIPOC on screen instead of that horrible serial killer doll that I’ve come to love and hate.