By Aswad Walker
Because my oldest son, Biko Malik, is the official family connoisseur of horror, I always go to him for advice on what to check out.
I’m not big into horror. Was never a fan of slasher movies or films that displayed what folk call “gratuitous violence” for no other reason than to gross people out. And the vast majority of today’s horror flicks have characters who do stuff no human in their right mind would do, and make decisions no human would ever make… just to position them into a jump-scare scene.
I choose to check out horror flicks that you can almost tell by the trailer that they are just good movies, with a story that’s worth something, actors and production that are really trying to do the damn thang and characters who do stuff us regular folk do, but for whatever reason, things turn out horribly wrong. And I’ve been a pretty good judge at searching through the junk and finding those movies and shows of horror that meet the mark.
But most times, I still rely on the expert — Biko — especially when I want to know what really good horror movies/shows are out there that were/are written, directed, produced and/or starring Blackfolk. Stuff that may not be on most folks’ radar, but that is mos def worth checking out.
So, without further adieu, here are “my” (Biko’s) recommendations for new-ish quality Black-led horror. New-ish meaning, some of these have been out for a minute, but may still be new to you and me. Let’s enjoy.
- “Master“: Okay, I debated about whether or not to include this one, but not because it lacks in quality or suspense. This movie is well-done, and you can literally feel the thousands of micro-aggressions felt by the movie’s main three female leads. Regina Hall leads this cast, and does a “masterful” job playing the role of Gail Bishop, the newly-appointed and first Black master of Ancaster, an elite New England university. Never mind the ghost-inspired horror aspect of this film, it was the nonstop assault on Hall’s character and the young freshman sister that had me calling my son and saying, “Yo! Really?” But hey, we know the actions of those who believe in the myth of white supremacy are this nation’s real horror show.
- “Them“: See above — racism as the real monster times a thousand.
- “Good Madam“: This film from the Motherland is described as “a strange psychological thriller about Tsidi, a woman who is forced to move in with her separated mother, a domestic worker who obsessively cares for her catatonic white “Madame” in the wealthy suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. Seeing that I just learned of an all-white town in South Africa that forbids Blackfolk from even entering, keeping their apartheid tradition alive), this film’s premise speaks to that nonsense. I think Immo have to check this one out.
- “Saloum“: Saloum is another flick from the Continent. Folk are using words and phrases like “masterpiece” and “cult classic” and genre-bending” to describe it. With all that praise, I don’t know if the movie’s description does it justice… about a trio of mercenaries in 2003 escaping a coup in Guinea-Bissau and taking refuge in a hidden region of the Saloum River in Senegal. But something from beyond the grve awaits them. And it awaits you too. Check it out.
- “Nanny“: This American-made movie centers around an Africa sister named Aisha who is an immigrant from Senegal, attempting to piece together a new life in New York City while caring for the child of an Upper East Side (i.e. white) family (Wait a minute Biko. There’s a theme arising here). Anyway. Aisha is forced to confront a concealed truth that threatens to shatter her American Dream.
- “Candyman” (2021): Y’all already know. And if you don’t, what the hell are you waiting for. This one’s a must-see.
- “Gaia“: Here are some of this movie’s descriptors: “A masterfully shot creature feature.” “Terrifying… Sure to make your skin crawl.” “A psychedelic eco-horror Fantasia.” “A truly creepy, disturbing film.” Some of y’all are saying, “Sign me up.” How do I know? Because I’m right behind you!!! (made you look… wit’cho scary ass)
- “His House“: A refugee couple from South Sudan — OK Biko, we get it; you really love you some Africa — struggle to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface. And in the walls. Check the walls, money!
- “Black Box“: This is the second film on this list that has hometown icon Phylicia Rashad in the cast (you’ll have to watch all the other movies/shows on the list to figure out the other one). The main character, however, is actor Mamoudou Athie, dude who starred in “Archive 81” (a Netflix thriller series you’d do well to binge). This one is less horror and more thriller, but still needs to be high on your list of things to watch.
- “Juju Stories“: Mijo (my son) offered up another one straight outta Africa. “Juju Stories” is a three-part anthology film exploring juju (magical) stories rooted in Nigerian folklore and urban legend, written and directed by C.J. Obasi, Abba Makama and Michael Omonua. The film features three stories: “Love Potion” by Omonua, “YAM” by Makama, and “Suffer The Witch” by Obasi.
- “Vampires vs. The Bronx“: If you like your horror light and comedic, this one is for you. And they still manage to make “monsters” out of modern-day issues. I won’t spoil it by telling you which one.
- “The Transfiguration“: This is the oldest movie on this “new-ish” list. But chances are, you haven’t seen it yet, so… Here are some review quotes: “A quiet bite… that creeps up on you” and “(a) slow-burn modern vampire fable.” This one looks really good.