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Oh, The Horror: WoC in Horror

Hana Shafi

In this Oh, The Horror, I share some excellent, and undeniably scary, horror films with women of colour in the lead. This was, by far, the most challenging Oh, The Horror post I’ve ever written. The truth is, finding notable mainstream Western horror films for this list wasn’t easy. Several films that popped up in my research were B-movies I had never heard of, or films that were so unpopular I’d never seen them. As a result, many of the films in this list are foreign films—most of us will have to turn on the subtitles. Still, moving away from mainstream Western films is a great way to expand our horror movie viewing repertoire, and to experience the horror finesse of other countries and cultures.

1. 28 Days Later (2002)

This creepy post-apocalyptic zombie flick by Danny Boyle delivers on all levels: a frightening and fast-moving plot, a unique twist on zombies and their origin stories, a thrilling climax ,and the wonderful Naomie Harris in the lead. It’s a rarity to find mainstream Western horror films with black women playing leading characters. In 28 Days Later, Harris plays Selena, a survivor of the apocalypse with a tough, intense exterior, but who is caring and nurturing as well. She’s a multi-dimensional character that the film, and the leading man, rely on.

2. Audition (1999)

In this movie Eihi Shiina plays the protagonist Asami, and she brings a new definition of terror. Rated one of the scariest movies of all time, Shiina is what makes Audition come to life. Her acting is impeccable, shifting from quirky and adorable, to strange, distant, and eventually, horrifying. A warning though: Audition is disturbing. At times, it’s hard to tell what’s a dream and what’s real in the movie. It shifts through surreal sequences, with Shiina tying it all together.

3. Macabre (2009)

In this Indonesian gory horror film, both the protagonist and antagonist are amazing Indonesian actors of colour. Julie Estelle plays Ladya, the main protagonist, a woman who is determined to survive through extraordinary circumstances. Shareefa Daanish plays the terrifying Dara, who sufficiently gave me the creeps through the entirety of the film with her disturbingly calm smile and unquenchable blood lust. This movie is not fit for anyone who can’t handle scenes with lots and lots and lots of blood. Despite the overwhelming gore, the film is worth watching, especially to see the excellent performances of Estelle and Daanish.

4. Bhoot (2003)

Bhoot is a Bollywood horror film, relying on the basic, but classic, premise of a house haunting. While Bollywood is certainly not known for horror, Bhoot was a chilling film that was met with critical success. Leading lady Urmila Matondkar is credited for being the ultimate saving grace for the film, keeping it excellent with her brilliant performance. Her scenes as a possessed housewife received huge praise. Bhoot is truly a rare horror gem of Bollywood cinema, and a film that seemed to inspire other Bollywood directors to try their hand at horror.

Next time on Oh, The Horror, I talk about the virginity allegory in classic horror films.

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