“Swarm,” the original Amazon Prime series created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers that premiered a week ago, has jumpstarted the conversation surrounding how Black women are portrayed on television. In addition, it explores the effects of stan culture and celebrity obsession. Though “Swarm” bravely uses horror as a vehicle to explore pertinent topics, it’s not the first of its kind to do so. In its honor, here are some of the best Black scary movies and tv series.
Of course, we’re starting with Get Out. It’s the film that revitalized the horror/thriller story. Jordan Peele’s brilliant script used race to explore identity and the exhaustive nature of the white gaze. Before this movie exposed it, how many times had we all heard the Obama line? He won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and created the Jordan Peele genre, some of which will pop up later.
From the moment Jordan Peele hit us with the creepy refrain of “I Got 5 on It” in the trailer for Us, we knew this was going to be something different. What the Nope director does so well is unpredictability. We spent months trying to figure out where this story would take us, and almost none of us were right. Did anyone have the Tethered taking over as the credits roll?
Shoutout to Tony Todd who scarred a generation of children for life with his unforgettable portrayal of the Candyman. He was so frightening that after this movie he became a horror legend. When Tony Todd shows up on-screen, you know bad things are about to happen. Fun fact: I once called my mom and left a sleepover early because the other girls kept saying his name over and over. Black people do not play with the Candyman.
When Jordan Peele announced he was producing a new Candyman, we all instantly said, ‘Who could possibly be scarier than Tony Todd?’ And while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II did a great job with an updated story centering on police violence and gentrification, no one can really top the original. However, I did appreciate how the film refocused the story away from a random white woman.
The sheer brilliance of Lovecraft Country sometimes overshadows just how scary this show is. The racist sheriffs and secret societies of rich white people who constantly work to keep Leti and Tic down are even worse than the actual monsters and demons. If you haven’t seen this limited series yet, stop what you’re doing, head to HBO Max and binge all 10 episodes. I will never forgive HBO of depriving us of a Season 2.
His House takes the audience through so many emotions, you don’t even process them all until after the movie is over. Yes, it’s scary, but there’s also grief, frustration, anger, heartbreak and relief. Wunmi Mosaku and Sope Dirisu are effortless as they brilliantly move between all of these moments. Do not watch this before bedtime, because your brain will be up all night trying to figure out what you’ve just watched.
The Walking Dead
Let’s just talk about those early seasons where we got to see Danai Gurira using Michonne’s swords to kick ass. There was a stretch in the middle of the series where she was absolutely the best thing about it. Her character also seemed to be the only one with any actual common sense. Her character has been missed by fans since Gurira left to help rule Wakanda.
Night of the Living Dead
Yes, this is the film that all other zombie films are based on, but it’s also groundbreaking for the casting of Duane Jones as the hero. In 1968, Black actors didn’t get to play the hero when the rest of the cast was white. Honestly, they barely get to do that now.
Tales From the Hood
Sure this film is extremely ‘90s, which means it tries really hard to be cool and thought-provoking. The ‘90s weren’t known for subtlety. However, if you look a little deeper you can see the roots of films like Get Out and Candyman (2021) being planted in the intersection of race and horror.
We usually see Regina Hall in wild comedic roles like Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul, but in Master she reminds everyone that she can pull out her dramatic skills and tell a compelling story when she wants to. Once again, viewers are left to question whether the actual racists or supernatural threat is scarier, and frankly, we all know it’s not the mysterious ghosts we need to be worried about.
Atlanta - “Teddy Perkins”
The whole time Darius is hanging out with Teddy Perkins, you know it’s going to end badly, but LaKeith Stanfield and Donald Glover are so captivating, we can’t look away. Only a show as absurdly unique as Atlanta could deliver a full-fledged horror story, concentrated into a half hour of brilliant storytelling. Even after the episode comes to its bloody conclusion, it stays with you for a long time.
“Swarm,” the original Amazon Prime series in which Dominique Fishback stars as Dre, is about a serial killer with a celebrity obsession that proves to be lethal. Dre’s infatuation centers around Ni’jah, a Beyoncé-like figure for whom she will do anything for. Once someone disparages her idol, however, their lives are violently cut short. “Swarm” also features appearances from Chloe Bailey and Damson Idris.
In the 2019 film Ma, Octavia Spencer is a lonely woman decides to make friends with a group of teens. She allows them to party in her basement but with rules. The only caveats are one of the kids had to be sober, they couldn’t swear and they could never go upstairs. They also had to call her “Ma.” Things quickly take a turn for the worst and “Ma” becomes obsessed with the adolescents— resulting in shocking violence.
The 1997 film Eve’s Bayou marked Kasi Lemmons’ directorial debut. The movie also featured a stellar cast with the likes of Diahann Carroll, Samuel L. Jackson, Jurnee Smollett and Meagan Good. During a Louisiana summer, Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett) discovers that her family’s wealthy existence isn’t what it seems. Ultimately, she realizes there are supernatural and gothic forces at play.