cover image The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar

The Black Guy Dies First: Black Horror Cinema from Fodder to Oscar

Robin R. Means Coleman and Mark H. Harris. Saga, $19.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-982186-53-1

“Unlike ‘The Black Guy,’ Black horror has managed to not only survive, but thrive,” contend Coleman (Horror Noire), vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Northwestern University, and journalist Harris in this animated chronicle. The authors examine how Black representation in horror films has changed since the 1960s, beginning in 1968 with the releases of Spider Baby and Night of the Living Dead, the former of which is an early example of the “Black guy dies first” trope. A particularly strong chapter dissects Black horror stereotypes, noting that witch doctors from such films as Child’s Play (1988) “have African origins that lead” to their portrayal as “primitive, uncultured savages,” and that the selflessness typical of the “Magical Negro” (The Stand, The Green Mile) is usually in service of a white protagonist. The authors bring appropriately sharp humor to their examination of contemporary satirical fare inspired by the success of Get Out (2017) and remark that The Forever Purge (2021), in which Black characters struggle to survive “against rich White elitists who view them as expendable,” is “like the NFL.” Coleman and Harris’s encyclopedic knowledge of horror astounds and their critiques yield fresh insights. Horror aficionados will want to take note. Photos. (Feb.)