For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved horror films in all their various forms: traditional, psychological, supernatural, etc. Early horror films that had any Black people in them generally included stereotypical, offensive images of Black men and women, but the women also faced sexism along with racism. Black women were expected to be the scary old Voodoo witch or the sex kitten who was looked upon as an object to be ravished by the lead male character or whomever.

I write genre fiction, but horror is what I love to write the most and I write the types of characters I want to read about. There are three horror films that I love that featured Black women as the leads—and survivors!

There will be spoilers throughout this post, so you’re officially being forewarned. And if you haven’t seen them—watch them!

 

First, we have Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, starring Jada Pinkett-Smith:

 

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The story begins with Brayker (William Sadler, pictured above), a demon knight who has the last of seven keys that were scattered throughout the universe in order to battle demons.

Chased by a collector demon played by Billy Zane, they both end up battling at a motel in which the owner, surviving cop, and patrons along with the troubled Jeryline (Jada Pinkett-Smith; pictured above) a former young thief who works there in order to avoid prison time.

Brayker realizes this motel is the end of the line for him when the stars align on his hand markings, an indication that a new demon knight must be appointed. Jeryline proves to be Brayker’s replacement and she alone defeats the collector demon. Although she was troubled, she knew she was tough enough to battle evil.

There were other flawed characters in the movie, but Jeryline was the toughest and was not tempted by the demon’s tricks. Let me mention here that Irene, the owner (CCH Pounder) was a rough and tough character as well who sacrificed herself so that Jeryline, Brayker, and a kid could escape.

In the end, Jeryline’s quick thinking and tough-as-nails attitude saved her life—and the world. She didn’t receive help, nor did she await a fictitious prince charming to come save her. And, she was the only survivor.

Secondly, we have Naomie Harris as Selena in 28 Days Later:

 

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Selena was one of the few remaining survivors of a deadly plague. This movie had a different take on zombies. Basically, people went crazy from the “Rage” virus and killed non-infected people in horrible ways rather than eating them. Much better, right?

From the beginning of the movie, Selena saved another lead character; a man named Jim (Cillian Murphy) who was unaware of what had happened in the world since he was in a coma for 28 days. Selena traveled with a few other survivors who ended up dying, but with Jim, they meet additional survivors.

When Selena, Jim, and a young girl named Hannah are held captive by soldiers, Selena and Hannah are involuntarily a part of their desperate attempt to “re-populate” the earth, so they would have “hope for the future.” I held my breath as they dressed the two of them up in gowns to make them more “appealing.” Ick. Fortunately, they were not assaulted as Jim intervenes in time to distract the soldiers by letting loose an infected soldier.  The ladies were able to dodge the rampage and they fought those soldiers together. The trio found that the human monsters were worse than the infected who hunted them. Selena, Jim, and Hannah survived.

Selena was tough, and didn’t hesitate to kill whomever approached her in a threatening way when given the opportunity. Although she did hesitate when she thought Jim was infected, but he wasn’t, so she was relieved that she didn’t kill him.

Lastly, we have Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods in Alien vs. Predator:

 

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Alexa lead a group of scientists in an archaeological expedition in Antarctica and found themselves in the middle of an ancient battle between two different species of aliens. Alexa was hired by the very wealthy Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) to lead the team. The team had only one other woman, and she was one of a few hired guns taken on the expedition to protect them all. Needless to say, she died along with the rest of the security folks and the entire team. They died at the hands—or claws—of the two opposing alien species. Alexa was left alone and proved herself worthy to a predator by killing an alien. They combined forces to battle the alien creatures that remained a threat. In the end, she was the only human left to finish the job and save the day.

In all three films, these women used their brains, brawn, and instincts to survive amidst a mostly white, male cast. They weren’t treated as servants or sex slaves except for that cringe worthy scene in 28 Days Later.

All three women fought just as hard or harder than their white, male counterparts; proving that they could and did survive regardless of their gender or race.

 

Tyhitia Green writes horror, fantasy, and sci-fi, but she dabbles in other genres as well. She can be found at her blog: http://obfuscationofreality.blogspot.com/ or athttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6692231.Tyhitia_Green

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  • Trakena Prevost

    This was such an amazing post, Tyhitia!!! I especially loved Demon Knight, which I watched many years ago, but had completely forgotten about. Thanks for the reminder of a few great horror films with strong, independent black females in the lead roles =)!

  • R A Felder

    Good job. Looking forward to more from you.

  • Candice Frederick

    love this. and love me some 28 days later and naomie harris

  • Paris Sweeper

    I love these movies, not only because the black women survive, they don’t play those stereotypical characters. Great job! Can’t wait to read more from you!

  • raine

    Well done! Good examples. And thanks for mentioning CCH Pounder, an excellent actress who doesn’t get much credit.

  • Marcia Colette

    Awesome job! I think the first time I started noticing black women in horror was Rah Digga in Thirteen Ghosts. Even though the movie was lousy, she really made me glad that I stuck around to the end. And, she actually survived.

  • Shadeplant

    Thanks for this — I’d totally forgotten about Demon Knight! A few others came to mind while reading:

    **Phantasm 3: Gloria Lynn Henry plays Rocky, a strong black woman who wields nunchucks and battles against grave robbers from another dimension.

    **Blood Diner: LaNette LaFrance plays badass Detective Sheba Jackson, who thwarts a small cannibal cult’s attempt to revive an ancient goddess. The film was directed by Jackie Kong (the only Asian woman horror filmmaker I’m aware of) but nevertheless, like many 80s horrors, there’s copious misogyny.

    **Walking Dead has Danai Gurira playing one of my favorite black female characters of all time, Michonne! Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) is also a tough gal who holds her own against both the boys and the zombies.

    **Wake: Bree Newsome’s short horror film is probably the best, most interesting, most comprehensively black feminist horror I’ve ever seen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njq3EOKsf10.

  • Thank you so much for posting this. I’d been looking up Black feminist films to add to our library (I came across this article while googling Black feminist films), and it really never occurred to me that there could be horror films like these that portray Black feminism. I’m usually stuck on documentaries and other non-fiction titles, mostly. But I’m adding all three to our library. 🙂