10 Great North American Horror Movies By Directors of Color

Some of the best horror movies out there have been made by filmmakers of color.

Horror Poc Made

5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo Del Toro’s coming-of-age fairytale is considered a masterpiece for a reason. The film mixes incredible creature design, a childlike sense of magic, and the bloody realities of the Spanish Civil War to create something the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) escapes her disheartening real world — including a sick mother and brutal military leader stepfather — for the fantasy life she finds in her own backyard. Soon, she’s on a mission to complete three tasks for a mysterious faun who claims he can give her immortality. I’ve always interpreted the end of Pan’s Labyrinth as both majestic and deeply tragic, and it’s that ability to juggle genre excellence with those complex feelings that makes Del Toro master of his craft. This wasn’t the writer-director’s first film, but it’s the one that launched him on the path toward becoming a household name and, eleven years later, finally winning a well-deserved Oscar. (Valerie Ettenhofer)


4. Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Eve's Bayou

Written and directed by Kasi Lemmons in one of the most fiercely confident directorial debuts, Eve’s Bayou was “prestige horror” long before we began to overuse that term. Lemmons utilizes her story of creole voodoo in the 1960’s not so much to make a comment on racial tensions of the time — a crux that perhaps would have been used by a white director — but rather to tell a devastating story from a perspective that could only come from a director of color. And when I say devastating, I’m not being hyperbolic. The film is heartbreaking in every sense of the word, with minor levity coming from the more overt horror elements, like deadly premonitions and murderous curses. But like our modern “prestige horror” films, in Eve’s Bayou, the true horror doesn’t come from any supernatural beast, but rather the very real human monsters that exist in the world. And nothing is more terrifying than that. (Jacob Trussell)


3. Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)

Demon Knight

Ernest Dickerson was working on George Romero’s Tales from the Darkside series when he got the call from Spike Lee to join him on Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads. That team would then go on to produce some of the most significant socially conscious cinema ever: She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do The Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, and Malcolm X. Few legends have produced a filmography as impressive. When he transitioned from DP to director, Dickerson crushed his first feature. Juice is a graphically brilliant crime saga saturated in anger and frustration. Again, full-stop, wash your hands of the business and retire in a state of grace. No. Dickerson was not done. His sophomore effort was a nasty bit of biblical siege horror reworked from an abandoned Tom Holland (Child’s Play) project to kickstart, what was meant to be, a franchise of Tales from the Crypt movies. While that glorious universe of films never quite happened, Demon Knight is a badass bloodsoaked B-movie elevated to masterclass by a superior cast of “That Guy” actors and the most stylish eye working behind a camera in the 1990s. Bow down to its brilliance, marvel at how it captures the heart of EC Comics without ever adapting a single panel from one, and just sop up all that deliciously goopy practical gore glory. No one ever expects trashy cinema to look so damn gorgeous, and we should all celebrate when a slice of B-horror can stand taller than most A-pictures. Ernest Dickerson is a legend many times over. (Brad Gullickson)


2. The Invitation (2015)

The Invitation

Karyn Kusama is a beloved director among the members of our Boo Crew, and if we included more than one movie per director on this list, Jennifer’s Body would have made the cut as well. For an appreciation of Kusama’s work as a whole, however, I will point you toward this excellent article by our own Anna Swanson. For the purpose of this list, though, we’re going to focus on The Invitation. The story revolves around a dinner party-from-hell scenario, as a man (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend (Emayatzy Corinealdi) attend a get-together thrown by his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Michiel Huisman). As it turns out, though, the hosts have ulterior motives and want their guests to join a grief cult. The less said about this one the better, but Kusama’s mastery of suspension and tension is nightmare-inducing, and the film’s exploration of grief and depression makes some compelling insights into the darkness of the human psyche. Plus, cult stuff. (Kieran Fisher)


1. Get Out (2017)

Get Out

Get Out is a rare horror movie in the sense that it’s a modern studio effort that supports a singular artistic vision and deals with some heady ideas. Granted, we’ve seen more than a couple so-called “elevated” horror movies conquer the mainstream in recent years, but Get Out’s success is a key reason why some studios have been showing more openness to non-generic fare. Jordan Peele’s feature-length debut is an uncomfortable and ghoulishly humorous exploration of white liberal racism in modern America, but it’s also a confident piece of cinema that instantly established the director as a modern master of terror and suspense. Get Out will go down in history as a movie that captured the anxieties of a zeitgeist, and while it’s a reminder of how shitty our world is right now, it’s all the more effective for it. (Kieran Fisher)

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Kieran is a Daily Curator for the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.