By PATRICK McCRAY
I’m not exactly Kevin Williamson, and I’m the last to pick up on a trope. As recently as ten years ago, I was still unaware of one of cinema and horror’s most venerable cliches… if there’s an ensemble of heroes in a horror film, and one of them is black, that character will be among the first to die. Why this is a trend is utterly beyond me. I can theorize, but my general rule of thumb in life is to ascribe things to ignorance and sloppiness before I look at conspiracy and malice. Nevertheless, it’s a deeply entrenched trend, and when it gets violated, I feel as if there is a righteously aggressive sense of, “Take that!” Usually with a twinkle in the eye, too.
Because going to the mall is a nightmare, stay home this Friday with us. Rifle through your DVD’s and VHS and get your streaming options in order. Pop the corn, slice the turkey, fire up Twitter, follow our schedule and watch & tweet along. This Friday, Dr. Monica Johnson and I will wisely observe and wisecrack our way through the highlights of the CHS Monster Serial THE BLACK HERO LIVES TO THE END HORROR FESTIVAL. We’ve done this in real life several times. Not only is it fun, but the past year’s events have made it pretty damned necessary. (Note: You can find Johnson on Twitter @DameODagon.)
Starting at noon, we’ll romp through four great movies. Sych up your own screening and tweet along. You can follow me @therealmccray and look for the hashtag #MonsterSerial. I’ll have a running commentary, and it wouldn’t be the same without you, so join in by tweeting your own observations. Finally, we’re throwing in a screening of DARK SHADOWS 2012 as our Thanksgiving turkey. Time to get it out of your system by helping me carve it up online.
The internet has no shortage of lists and articles about horror films where the black characters survive rather than serve as blithely dispatched tokens. There are far more than just these, but after much back and forth, these are what we’ll be watching.
12 p.m. (EST) THE THING (1982)
John Carpenter’s masterpiece of hijacked identity, paranoia, grotesquery, and suspense is far more timely than I ever expected, so let’s shake off the Thanksgiving hangover with Kurt Russell and Keith David. A team of scientists and their support crew stumble upon a hostile alien virus that erodes human hosts, leaving behind identical copies with an apocalyptic agenda. Soon, it becomes unclear who’s human, who’s a “thing,” and how long they have until no one is left. If you’ve seen it, you know that it’s never the same film twice. If you haven’t seen it, circle your calendar and silence your cell phone.
2 p.m. (EST) BLADE (1998)
Technically, this started the Marvel superhero cinema glut with a modernized, highly polished look at the once Shaftian hero of the 1970’s TOMB OF DRACULA. Long before Buffy, the half-vampire vampire hunter was one of horror’s first and only heroes to sustain a series. The 1998 film his a high tech modernization of that with a healthy injection of vampire lore and caste structure from the White Wolf universe. Wesley Snipes is an ideal fit the stoic soldier.
4 p.m. (EST) EVENT HORIZON (1997)
Laurence Fishburne and Richard T. Jones star (and one of them even survives) this highly underrated, supernatural, science fiction thriller. They accompany Sam Neill as he attempts to rescue a prototype faster-than-light ship that only travels from point to point by taking a detour through what may be Hell. But it’s not as goofy as that idea sounds as if it could be. Lovecraftian, atmospheric, and intense, it’s ripe with power brokers manipulating others hidden agendas and unthinkable secrets. You know, like the news. It’s also one of the most lush-looking, hard science fiction films of its kind since ALIEN.
6 p.m. (EST) DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979)
Among the first and best genre films starring a surviving, African American hero (Ken Foree as a contemplative SWAT officer) this George Romero follow-up to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD both defined the zombie genre and provided a model that has yet to be surpassed. In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, members of a news crew team up with the remainder of a SWAT division to clean and settle a zombie-infested mall. After, they fight boredom, jealousy, and the occasional biker gang. If this is not the CITIZEN KANE of horror, then it’s easily the VERTIGO.
And for dessert? Something completely different, with the coldest, leftover turkey we could find…
8:30 p.m. (EST) DARK SHADOWS (2012)
Notoriously observant and subtle funnyman, Tim Burton, teams up with that master of witty understatement, Johnny Depp, to faithfully bring Dan Curtis’ vision to life. Ha! Hardly. If you’re still in a carving mood, get ready to have at it on Twitter. It’s the cheapest holiday therapy in the nation.
We hope to see you there!