African-Americans CAN and DO Survive in Scary Movies
There are many rules to abide by to survive a horror movie — common knowledge, amongst all, is to never drink, do drugs, or have sex. Horror plays out as a morality play to some degree, where actions have consequences. At times though, even certain people can and almost always will die – the slut, the bitch, the douchebag jock and most of all: the black character.
But there are some occasions when a black character lives, and they certainly should be recognized.
Friday The 13th
Reggie, aka Reggie The Reckless, from Friday The 13th: A New Beginning. Yes, that movie barely has Jason and is a poor attempt at a possible reboot of the franchise. Reggie is living at the halfway house for the time because he is visiting his grandfather, who happens to work there. Afterwards, he gets caught up in the mayhem of Jason Voorhees.
What is interesting about Reggie is his taste for practical jokes and making what-would-be insensitive remarks — I think what gives Reggie a pass here is his age. Unfortunately, every other black character dies.
Not many care for Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday but almost everyone cares for the character of Creighton Duke. A bounty hunter with a cool hat and plenty of memorable lines is bound to hook people, no matter how much people may dislike this film. Creighton Duke is a wise old man character, by the end of the film he has offered all his necessary information and wisdom — hence, he is no longer needed.
According to the director, the character is in fact alive! The plan was to make solo spin-off film for Creighton Duke, which is certainly exciting. In retrospect, it makes sense that Creighton Duke is alive, given his treatment under Jason. Do you mean to tell me in a highly violent, R-rated film, that a character merely dies from a bear hug?
A Nightmare On Elm Street
Kincaid, a rather beloved character in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: The Dream Warriors, is one of several survivors in this film. This installment has a high survivor rate for both its franchise and the genre itself. Kincaid has something of a rebellious nature, chiefly against the doctor and her by-the-book, mundane practice. Twice the character ends up in ‘the quiet room.’ I believe it is not so much a rebellious streak, but his proactiveness in what keeps his character alive. He knows Freddy Krueger is real and the current practice of the hospital is not working, and he knows sitting around idly and talking things over is not going to defeat Freddy.
Sadly, Kincaid is the first character to die in the sequel – A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master. However, this is a different Kincaid. Freddy Krueger is dead and gone;no need to be proactive anymore now.
On a side note, Part 4 also features Laurence Fishburne as the orderly Max. Can we count Max though? Adults usually are not the targeted victims in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. But there are some occasions where the parent does not make it out alive and there is little to no reason to believe Max would ever really be a target for Freddy. Still, it does bump our black survival count to two.
Coming up next in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child is the character of Yvonne. Now Yvonne is an interesting case because she is hardly popular amongst fans in general. She is the voice of reason for our protagonist. Yvonne eventually does come around, after finally encountering Freddy Krueger herself and being saved by her friend Alice.
Yvonne is an interesting character given she hardly fits the “black stereotype”. Yvonne is always busy and is not pigeon-holed into any stereotypical female African-American roles. Sure, she stands by her white friend, Alice’s side, but still she calls Alice out when she feels her friend is in the wrong. She is the only level-headed character amongst the young cast.
Rounding out this series is Yaphet Kotto’s role, simply as Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Doc works at the shelter as therapist, who specializes in dream therapy. It makes him appear somewhat odd to his co-worker Maggie. Nonetheless, Doc is completely in control of his dream unlike the other characters. Freddy can erase his victims from existence; hence Maggie’s co-workers knowing nothing of their kids disappearing. Doc does though! In fact, he is the one who finds that if we pull Freddy out of the dream world then he can be slayed.
As mentioned before, Freddy rarely goes after adults directly — the exception here is because of the help Doc can be to children. Doc catches on quickly and uses his newly acquired knowledge against Freddy. Doc probably lives given to his own intelligence and due to his similar unconventional nature like Yvonne.
We get to Halloween and start with Halloween H20: 20 Years Later where we have LL Cool J as the school security-guard, Ronny. His character constantly phones his wife with his ridiculous romance novel ideas while on the job. The character never truly interacts with Michael Myers though. Michael sees him, but Ronny never sees Michael… at least until he’s “dead”. We are to believe Ronny is killed earlier, when fired upon by being mistaken for Michael Myers. Luckily, the bullet only grazed him.
Frankly, it would be awkward if in a slasher someone dies by accident and not by the hand of our killer. Still, it does sound bad when the only person to be fired on mistakenly is a black male. Should we accuse Adam Arkin’s character of racism? His character says he’s attracted to bullshit. And what is more bullshit than firing upon an innocent black man?
As much as we want to, we cannot forget about Halloween: Resurrection with Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks. Tyra did not make it to the end, but Busta Rhymes did! I believe this stems from the producers’ needs to learn a lesson on exploitation in the media, and how not everything needs to become a soundbite. Not a terrible notion, but the film certainly sucks at executing it. Let us not forget Busta’s mad karate skills in taking down Michael Myers. Ridiculous as it sounds, did the Halloween franchise give these two a pass because they are rappers? Do rappers get convenient plot armor of some sorts?
There are more than these select cases of black survivors in horror films, but I use these examples because they all appear in the three big franchise slasher films. Look hard enough and you can find more. It can depend on so many criteria it seems: on the director, the script, or even the actor.