Letting the Devil Out: Being A Black Girl In Horror

For a child with high anxiety, I was always very interested in things that scared me. Growing up in a home where the message of fire and brimstone was constantly repeated, I had enough to fear. Being soaked and cloaked in sin was my biggest nightmare. I never wanted to be bad and strived in every instance to be good. I always resented myself for not being perfect. Yet, my favorite book of the bible when I read it militantly was Revelations, the part where the demons come to life, and monsters of the imagination come to the very real world. The ultimate battle of good and evil. I would read Revelations over and over. The demons with different animal heads and the inconceivable angels terrified me constantly yet I would return even after my nightmares. I grew up in a pentecostal household. My family is very devout in the church and more specifically believe and honor the supernatural and mystical parts of Christianity most leave behind.

Screen Capture of The Haunting (1999)

The Haunting (1999) — first horror movie I remember watching.

Speaking in tongues, the holy ghost and the like was a normal Sunday occurrence, as was the mention of the devil. As a child, the devil was the scariest thing in the world to me. I had no doubt in my mind that the devil was watching me more than I believed god was. A reoccurring dream of getting dragged to hell from bed is something that followed me throughout most of my adolescence. And yet through all of this, I still found my way into liking horror.

My first memory of being scared of a horror movie had a huge impact on my life in retrospect. It was not a terribly scary movie either, thinking back on it now. The feeling of complete and total dread I remember so clearly. Similar dread that I felt as a child hearing the preachers talk about sin and damnation. Have I learned to embrace my fears? Is being afraid something that is highly pleasurable to me now? These hypotheticals cannot be easily answered but in honest admittance to myself Christianity and its sadism has lead me to like what is considered dark and evil. Even as a devout follower, I was attracted to Stephen King, heavy metal, and every other thing I was told to avoid.

Evangelical tabloids that my father gave me.

I recognize that many black people, and black women especially, are culturally encouraged to avoid horror. In society blackness is often synonymous with the evil and bad — so through defensive protection, many black American families embraced militant and rigid religious practices. To be seen as holy and righteous is to be seen as an example for white supremacist society to acknowledge. Why would a young black girl actively want to embrace what is seen as darkness?

Vampz (2004)

Horror is darkness. It is also the exploration of more than the dark: life, death, sex, love, the ego, the mind, the body. Horror lets us face things that we may not otherwise readily accept in our lives. Even in my young and franticly anxious mind I found refuge in horror. I did not feel like I could control my own destiny in relation to heaven or hell. I did not have the ability to control my own life. I could control the VCR and remote. I could hide under the blanket when I was afraid and wait until the scary thing went away. I could sit in the face of my fears and survive. Eventually, sitting through scary things over time became more of a personal dare for myself. Could I, anxious and fearful of hell and demons, sit through The Omen and The Exorcist and live? Is it possible for me to face my fear of men and misogyny by watching a slasher film?

I am not alone in my obsession, so I reached out to loads of black femmes and asked them about their horror movie lust as well. This is the beginning of a series that I hope to develop organically and consistently. I want to talk about horror critically and passionately — both through my lens as a fan and as a woman of color. I hope the juxtaposition of my two favorite things (horror movies and intersectional feminism) is of interest to you all.

Scream 2 (1997)

Each article will have a short recommendation list of horror movie films.

Bloodthirsty and Black
1. Scream! Blacula Scream! (1973)
2. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
3. Ganja & Hess (1973)

Destiny Washington
Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.