Tonight BAM offers a chance to Shudder's new documentary Horror Noire on the big screen before it hits the specialty streaming service February 7. The new documentary by Xavier Burgin examines the Black American experience of watching, creating, and experiencing horror. Interviews with iconic actors including Tony Todd, Ken Foree and Miguel A. Nuñez accompany historical and cultural analysis by writers and academics, including Robin R. Means Coleman, author of the 2011 tome from which the film is adapted. (Coleman is in attendance for a panel discussion tonight alongside several of the film's other participants.) Filmmakers Rusty Cundieff (Tales from the Hood) and Ernest Dickerson (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight) are one of several on-screen duos that dish on one of the film's most evil and insidious subjects: the film industry. Bookended by praise of Jordan Peele's Get Out, Horror Noire's clear purpose is to firmly establish a larger pantheon of black directors, actors, critics, and writers in horror.
Racism, fears of "Otherness," and collective experiences of trauma and oppression have the potential to be utterly transformed by cinema. Horror Noire begs the viewer to read the subtle messages in storytelling and film craft. All of the lesser roles given to actors of color, the creatures used as stand-ins for blackness, the stereotypes of lifestyles and desires — these are all potential fodder for the subversive aims of filmmakers, including Spike Lee, who championed young director Cundieff and executive produced Tales from the Hood.
Cundieff's film, which rounds out the evening's double bill, riffs on the delightfully lurid morality plays of EC Comics's classic series Tales from The Crypt, which was then a popular HBO TV show. Hitting theaters a year after horrorcore rap group Gravediggaz' first album 6 Feet Deep, and in the wake of movies like Menace II Society and Juice, Tales from the Hood is an anthology horror spin on the teen hood dramas of the time. In its frame story, Clarence Williams III plays a velvety cryptkeeper, leading three young drug hustlers around his funeral home and sharing tales centered around open caskets. All involving different horrors of the black experience in America mixed with gory, deadly, supernatural comeuppances. Tales from the Hood opened up the possibility of using an often-marginalized genre for social awareness, while preserving the grisly camp and cartoonish style of a perfect pulp terror tale.