For my final 31 Films of Halloween: Women in Horror Edition post, I decided to show appreciation for the Black women in horror! The first Black women who began appearing in horror films were in the 1930’s, and they held roles that strongly represented the social values of America at the time. Films like Chloe, Love is Calling You (1934) and Ouanga (1936) showed Black women as the villain White people (mostly White women) had convinced themselves that they were- thieves of their babies and their men. As the film industry progressed and the horror genre pressed on making more films, the role of Black women in these films didn’t increase in number nor in value. They were pigeon-holed into roles that further stigmatized the ideas around Black people and their culture. They were voodoo priestess’s, gyrating natives, and loyal mammies who served the only purpose of furthering a plot or storyline.
It is said that the first noted “woman in horror” was Jehanne D’Alcy. After leaving the theatrical stage in 1896, she went on to participate in a number of “horror” films directed by her husband- George Melies. His work on The House of the Devil (1896), A Terrible Night (1896), and A Nightmare (1896) makes him the first technical horror director. Although his works were meant to instill wonder and amazement- not fear- his technical style, use of practical effects, and thematic stories of devils, giant spiders, and men turning into bats, made them what they are considered today. They helped establish a role for women in film that made them seductresses, damsels, and mystifying creatures from an unknown world.
Atlantics (2019) was first released at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival when it competed for the Palme d’Or. The films director and co-writer, Mati Diop, made history when she became the first black woman who directed a film featured in the competition- also winning the Grand Prix award for it. After its release at Cannes and later in Senegal, the film was picked up and released on Netflix for wide viewing.
Jezebel (2019) is a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age film written and directed by Numa Perrier. The story follows 19 year old Tiffany (Tenille) through the struggles of growing up and losing her mother, while she also finds work as a cam-girl.
You know the story, from Louisa M. Alcott, that has been re-adapted again and again for television and film. Little Women is a story that follows four sisters- Amy, Jo, Beth, and Meg March- through Civil War-era America and their paths to womanhood. You may think, what does a story about 19th century women have that can relate to 21st century women? Well, that’s where Greta Gerwig (writer/director of Lady Bird (2018)) comes in- to bridge that gap between two centuries of ‘little women,’ growing up in two vastly different times. And in this way, I believe Gerwig and the cast of Little Women succeed while still solidifying and celebrating the beauty of the source material.
Honey Boy (2019) is the autobiographical screenplay written by Shia LaBeouf and directed by Alma Har’el. It’s the story of a young boy named Otis (played by Noah Jupe) as he finds himself in the spotlight of the acting world while also dealing with the turmoil and abusive relationship with his father James (played by LaBeouf himself.)
Audiences were first introduced to the live-action ‘Harley Quinn’ in 2016, when Suicide Squad hit theaters. Margot Robbie played Quinn brilliantly. With her ability to hit those comedic notes perfectly and execute those action sequences with animation and badass-ness, Robbie made the role of ‘Harley Quinn’ hers, just like Bale did with ‘Batman’ and Downey Jr. did with ‘Iron Man.’