10 Underrated Black Characters in Horror
Black History Month is officially coming to a close, and what better way to close this month than to talk about underrated Black folks in horror? I’m very aware that this isn’t the first time anyone has written about this. Discussing diversity and the importance of it isn’t new, but it’s crucial if you care about being an ally or seeing yourself onscreen.
Recognizing Black characters in horror that aren’t widely discussed should be a focus, as well. Most of us know of or have heard of popular Black characters in horror like Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) from True Blood, Jeryline from Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995), Maureen Evans (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Phil (Omar Epps) from Scream 2 (1997), or most of the prominent Black characters in the American Horror Story universe. But how many people know about or talk about other performances/characters? This list will remind you of—or at least introduce you to—some relatively or mostly underrated Black characters in the horror world (movies only this time, sorry).
Belle (Fright Night Part 2)
I’ve yet to finish Fright Night Part 2 (1988) because my watchlist is growing longer by the minute, but from what I’ve heard from other Black queer horror fans, Belle (Russell Clark) is iconic. The character is a queer vampire who wears fabulous ’80s garb and seems to like roller skating. I can’t personally speak to whether or not Belle touches me personally, but this tweet written by one of my favorite LGBTQ Blerds may help folks understand Belle’s importance. If only he were discussed a lot more in the horror world.
Rodger (Night of the Demons)
Night of the Demons (1988) is a cult classic, and I recently wrote about Rodger (Alvin Alexis) being one of the best final boys (fight me or the demons if you disagree). Rodger is one of the smartest characters in Night of the Demons (1988) because he does whatever it takes to survive. He also represents the kind of Black character that doesn’t stick around during chaos (think Joel in Scream 2). It’s not so common for people to discuss him when discussing final boys, but he should be discussed more because Black final boys don’t come around often!
Rochelle Zimmerman (The Craft)
The way that Rachel True has been treated, for years, by fans of The Craft (1995) is despicable. Rochelle (Rachel True) isn’t some throwaway character and doesn’t deserve to be forgotten (deliberately or otherwise). Most horror fans know of or have seen The Craft (1995) and how Rochelle is allowed to get back at her racist tormentors, and who would I be if I didn’t include her on this list, even if she may get more attention than some of the others?
Dr. Miranda Grey (Gothika)
Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) goes through it during Gothika (2003), and Halle Berry delivers a great performance. The film is incredibly psychological (with a sprinkle of supernatural) and deals with subject matter that may be uncomfortable. Considering how many people dislike the film, it’s easy to brush it off or never even bother watching it at least once. A Black woman leading a horror film in the early aughts sounds so unlikely, yet it happened, and still the persistent Dr. Miranda Grey has been left behind in the horror world.
McKayla Hooper (Tragedy Girls)
Tragedy Girls (2017) is tremendously underrated as a slasher comedy, therefore McKayla Hooper (Alexandra Shipp) easily falls under the radar. McKayla not only shines as a character, but as a villainous teenage girl, as well. Black characters being villains (more specifically, when their Blackness isn’t framed as why they are a villain) is something I like seeing in media, especially the horror I consume. McKayla is an aspiring serial killer in Tragedy Girls (2017). She embodies an unhinged persistence, and her pink mask is really iconic.
Brooke (Hell Fest)
People don’t talk about Hell Fest (2018) enough, and maybe they will now if they browse through Akela Cooper’s work. Of course, Hell Fest (2018) isn’t the best slasher you’ll ever see in your life, but it’s a lot of fun and relatively scary. Also, Tony Todd has a minor role in it, and one of the survivors is Black! Brooke (Reign Edwards) feels like a real person who wants her best friend to have some fun. She’s not dismissed as a bland character compared to her best friend, either. She has a personality and a desire to survive that lasts her until the end.
It’s unfortunate when a character that could’ve easily survived gets dispatched suddenly. Haunt (2019) is very much one of those slashers that likes to surprise its viewers, despite being very simple in its premise, but hey, that works sometimes! Bailey (Lauryn McClain) is fleshed out enough as a character that her death is really disappointing, and the reason she’s on this list is because even minor Black characters deserve some shine. You know? Poor Bailey didn’t become a badass duo with Haunt‘s final girl, Harper (Katie Stevens).
Abra Stone (Doctor Sleep)
Say what you want but Doctor Sleep (2019) is a stunning sequel to The Shining (1980). It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but regardless, there’s a lot to appreciate about this film—including Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who is a little badass who is just as (if not more) powerful than Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor). Her performance is noteworthy, especially given her age, and it’s cool to see young Black girls being powerful/capable—though people often talk about Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), and I don’t blame them whatsoever. But Abra deserves more shine and appreciation in the horror world!
Bobby (The Boy Behind the Door)
Shudder is a beloved streaming service in the horror world, and The Boy Behind the Door (2020) is a real gem in the Shudder catalogue. It’s an unnerving horror flick about two boys who are kidnapped by child traffickers, and in a turn of events, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis), a young Black boy, is the one saving his best friend. Normally, it would be the other way around, but The Boy Behind the Door (2020) said nope to that idea. Not nearly enough people talk about this sweet and brave kid—or this film, if I’m being honest.
Sissy (2022) is an independent horror flick that folks need to absolutely check out. There’s a lot of style, color, trippy moments, and a range of characters that you likely won’t root for. The main character Cecilia (Aisha Dee) isn’t outright villainous, but she certainly does what a slasher villain would do. Personally, I love seeing Black women have a “good for her” type of journey. It’s not everyday that we see that, and there’s nothing supernatural about Cecilia spiraling out. She just loses her shit on a bunch of horrible people.
Sophie (Bodies Bodies Bodies)
Listen, Gen Zers deserve to have horror movies centered around them, too! Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) is a horror comedy that’s drenched in neon and social commentary. The cast is very stacked, and people continually praise Rachel Sennott’s tremendous performance, but I’ve got to hand it to Amandla Stenberg as Sophie, as well. Her character is very visibly flawed and has moments of toxicity (like all the characters in Bodies Bodies Bodies) that make her very human. Black women don’t need to be perfect to be appreciated as characters in horror (or any genre).
(featured image: Gunpowder & Sky)
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