Comedies we’ve got. Rom-coms we’ve got. Slave narratives w’ve got. But black horror films, we don’t have enough of. Why not? The best horror films, as director David Cronenberg once said, are always about something other than just horror trying to scare the pants off people.
The good ones, such as the early films of Cronenberg and George Romero, work as sort of metaphors, making political and social commentaries about the world we live in. Watch Romero’s original 1978 version of "Dawn of the Dead," which not only works brilliantly as a horror film, but is also one of most savage and blistering satires of the materialistic mall culture that we live in.
And it is those aspects of the horror film genre that have inspired Chicago-based independent filmmaker Kelle Terrell.
A graduate of the MFA graduate program in film directing from Columbia College, Chicago, Ms. Terell also has a MA in African American studies from Columbia University in New York, and has worked as a journalist for many media outlets such as Al Jazeera, BET.com, Essence, The Root, Glamour, and The Advocate.
This Sunday, Jan 17, starting at 4PM, some of her horror short films will be screened at the Black Cinema House in Chicago, located at 7200 S. Kimbark.
One of the films to be screened is "Goodnight My Love" about a Black lesbian couple trapped in the zombie apocalypse, which has been screened in over 40 film festivals around the world.
And her most recently completed horror short, "Blame," which deals with rape, will also be screened. As for why she made a horror film about the subject, Ms Terrell says that it was inspired by her experiences as a professional journalist when she covered sexual assault cases for some years: "I remember reading this New York Times 2011 piece where a reporter went to Texas to cover a gang rape of an 11-year old girl by like 15 older Black men and boys. When he interviewed the people in the community about what had happened, there was this overwhelming consensus that this rape was the girl’s fault."
She continues: "They accused of her being ‘fast’ and ‘too grown’ and wanted to know ‘where her mother was.’ It was heartbreaking to see how far they would defile a young girl to protect these men that abused and assaulted a child. And then later there was the Stuebenville trial, and how that town, and even the news coverage, rallied around these young boys."
Later when Terrell had to come up with ideas for her MFA thesis film, she said, "this topic kept popping up and wouldn’t leave me alone. So I listened to that voice and started to think of ways through storytelling to explore who were these people who defended these men and why do we value Black men and boys more than we do Black women and girls."
Needless to say, "Blame" has even more reverence today because of the on-going Bill Cosby scandal. For the filmmaker there is a problem in that, though more people are talking about the always vexing issues of rape and race, "they’re not doing it to elevate our understanding of sexual assault," she says, adding, "We’re failing to see that this goes so far beyond these accusations of white folks trying to ruin his legacy."
"Currently, we have a rape epidemic going on in our own community that needs to be addressed. From Cosby to R. Kelly to Daniel Holtzclaw to the countless African-American women who have been raped in their lifetime, it’s crystal clear that our women and girls are too often caught in the crosshairs of sexual violence, often being victimized by Black men who we are told need more protection from the world than we do. And yet too many of us are either shaking our heads in denial, acting like this isn’t our problem or defending perpetrators and blaming victims."
She hopes that she can make a difference with her horror short film, "Blame," inspiring conversation that "truly addresses accountability and our own rape culture."
"I know that we can do all of that AND still care about the Trayvons and the Tamirs of the world. One isn’t any more important than the other."
If this intrigues you and you’re fortunate enough to live in the Chicago area, check out the screening series this Sunday.
For more info, go here.
Below are two clips from "Blame."