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.
For my next 31 Films of Halloween, I want to honor the Underworld series. Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) is my favorite badass, leather-wearing vampire woman in a 5-film series. The Underworld series definitely gets a bad rep, and sometimes it’s understandably why. It’s the only film series (besides Star Wars) where bullets never seem to land. And there is more emphasis placed on the aesthetics (hotness) of the film rather than the actually story-telling. Nonetheless, I love this film franchise!
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.