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Variety's Power Of Women: New York 2016

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As spooky season creeps into the atmosphere for the month of October, many people are excitedly getting ready for all the ghoulish festivities leading up to Halloween.

One tradition that will always be on the schedule is a good horror movie marathon, and of course we have a special appreciation for the ones starring our favorite Black Hollywood stars — extra points if a leading lady is at the forefront of that fear!

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Women have done a lot to break barriers in the film industry throughout cinematic history, and we’ve seen that expressed in various ways when it comes to the horror genre. Whether playing the unfortunate victim or the ultimate villain of the situation, Black women in specific have represented on all levels of the “scare spectrum” in films that are considered classics, whether they had us begging for more or begging for it to stop.

Tyler Perry just announced that’s he’s teaming up with popular supernatural film production company Blumhouse for a new thriller titled Help, with plans to kick off production on the film next year in Atlanta. While we’re sure Perry is a genius at this point when it comes to making movies, he might need a few pointers as he dives deeper into the genre. Sure, he’s done a few quality thrillers with 2018’s Acrimony and A Fall From Grace last year, but this might be his first step towards giving us full slasher scenes!

In the event that he’s ready to go for the gore and needs some inspiration, we put together a roundup of 15 Black actresses that had us biting our nails as the leads in a handful of unforgettable scary movies.

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From vampire queens like Aaliyah and Grace Jones to game-changing “Final Girls” like Brandy and Sanaa Lathan, take a look back on 15 of the scariest sistas on film to get you in the mood for spooky season:

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1. Vonetta McGee, ‘Blacula’ (1972)


Say what you want about the blaxploitation era, but Blacula was not only quite entertaining but inspired the idea of Black horror films in general. On Vonetta’s part, she was just sensational on all levels with her Afrocentric presentation.

2. Marlene Clark, ‘Ganja & Hess’ (1973)


Marlene as Ganja Meda proved to be a pioneer for displaying Black women as the ultimate baddie instead of a helpless victim, which went on to be repeated for decades after.

3. Grace Jones, ‘Vamp’ (1986)


Although more of a comedy than horror, Vamp saw Jones in a few scenes as stripping bloodsucker Katrina that are sure to make you jump a bit.

4. Angela Bassett, ‘Vampire In Brooklyn’ (1995)


While Eddie Murphy was determined to make Vampire In Brooklyn as campy as possible, the beauty of Angela Bassett made it hard to turn away from her with or without the fangs.

5. Jada Pinkett Smith, ‘Scream 2’ (1997)


Although brief in screen time, Jada’s memorably shocking appearance in Scream 2 was impressive enough to get her on the official movie poster and be the scene that opens the hit slasher sequel.

6. Brandy, ‘I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’ (1998)


Brandy still stands as one of the first Black people to survive a slasher film as Karla in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, not only breaking that age-old myth but also managing to keep her iconic micro braids in tact while doing so.

7. Oprah Winfrey, ‘Beloved’ (1998)


As if slavery wasn’t scary enough, Beloved added ghosts into the mix. Oprah’s performance is bone-chilling to watch as the secrets of Sethe’s past slowly unfold.

8. Naomie Harris, ’28 Days Later’ (2002)


Zombie attacks will forever be top-tier scary, and Naomie Harris as Selena proves to be the ultimate survivor as she uses a combination of brains and fast-thinking to be one of the last ones standing.

9. Aaliyah, ‘Queen Of The Damned’ (2002)


Although her fate in real life was just as unfortunate as Akasha’s in Queen Of The Damned, Aaliyah playing the titular role and being the sole focus of the entire film made for a beautiful send-off to a star that we simply lost far too soon.

10. Halle Berry, ‘Gothika’ (2003)


Psychological in every bit of the word, Gothika proved to be a mind trip that wasn’t exactly received well by the masses. However, no one can deny Halle’s addictively-chilling performance as Dr. Miranda Grey.

11. Sanaa Lathan, ‘Alien vs. Predator’ (2004)


Sanaa’s strength playing relentless survivor Alexa Woods in Alien vs. Predator is both inspiring and a kick-ass sight to see.

12. Lupita Nyong’o, ‘Us’ (2019)


Lupita’s dual role as both the seemingly normal Adelaide Wilson and the misunderstood “Red” was nothing short of a testament to her award-worthy acting skills. That ballerina dance is still sure to give you goosebumps!

13. Kiersey Clemons, ‘Sweetheart’ (2019)


The survival horror genre is one that always makes it a grueling experience for the protagonist, and Kiersey Clemons does a great job at showcasing the strength of Black women in any given situation.

14. Octavia Spencer, ‘Ma’ (2019)


Adults trying to be too friendly with teens is horrifying in itself, and Octavia Spencer as the ‘”ma” of Ma really brought life to that type of character with depth and admittedly some humor.

15. Janelle Monáe, ‘Antebellum’ (2020)


The plot is probably every Black person’s nightmare, and Janelle Monáe does a great job at expressing the anxiety one might feel by being forced back into modern day slavery.

Scream Queens: 15 Black Leading Women In Horror Films That Had Us Shook  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

1. Vonetta McGee, ‘Blacula’ (1972)

Say what you want about the blaxploitation era, but Blacula was not only quite entertaining but inspired the idea of Black horror films in general. On Vonetta’s part, she was just sensational on all levels with her Afrocentric presentation.

2. Marlene Clark, ‘Ganja & Hess’ (1973)

Marlene as Ganja Meda proved to be a pioneer for displaying Black women as the ultimate baddie instead of a helpless victim, which went on to be repeated for decades after.

3. Grace Jones, ‘Vamp’ (1986)

Although more of a comedy than horror, Vamp saw Jones in a few scenes as stripping bloodsucker Katrina that are sure to make you jump a bit.

4. Angela Bassett, ‘Vampire In Brooklyn’ (1995)

While Eddie Murphy was determined to make Vampire In Brooklyn as campy as possible, the beauty of Angela Bassett made it hard to turn away from her with or without the fangs.

5. Jada Pinkett Smith, ‘Scream 2’ (1997)

Although brief in screen time, Jada’s memorably shocking appearance in Scream 2 was impressive enough to get her on the official movie poster and be the scene that opens the hit slasher sequel. 

6. Brandy, ‘I Still Know What You Did Last Summer’ (1998)

Brandy still stands as one of the first Black people to survive a slasher film as Karla in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, not only breaking that age-old myth but also managing to keep her iconic micro braids in tact while doing so. 

7. Oprah Winfrey, ‘Beloved’ (1998)

As if slavery wasn’t scary enough, Beloved added ghosts into the mix. Oprah’s performance is bone-chilling to watch as the secrets of Sethe’s past slowly unfold. 

8. Naomie Harris, ’28 Days Later’ (2002)

Zombie attacks will forever be top-tier scary, and Naomie Harris as Selena proves to be the ultimate survivor as she uses a combination of brains and fast-thinking to be one of the last ones standing.

9. Aaliyah, ‘Queen Of The Damned’ (2002)

Although her fate in real life was just as unfortunate as Akasha’s in Queen Of The Damned, Aaliyah playing the titular role and being the sole focus of the entire film made for a beautiful send-off to a star that we simply lost far too soon.

10. Halle Berry, ‘Gothika’ (2003)

Psychological in every bit of the word, Gothika proved to be a mind trip that wasn’t exactly received well by the masses. However, no one can deny Halle’s addictively-chilling performance as Dr. Miranda Grey.

11. Sanaa Lathan, ‘Alien vs. Predator’ (2004)

Sanaa’s strength playing relentless survivor Alexa Woods in Alien vs. Predator is both inspiring and a kick-ass sight to see.

12. Lupita Nyong’o, ‘Us’ (2019)

Lupita’s dual role as both the seemingly normal Adelaide Wilson and the misunderstood “Red” was nothing short of a testament to her award-worthy acting skills. That ballerina dance is still sure to give you goosebumps!

13. Kiersey Clemons, ‘Sweetheart’ (2019)

The survival horror genre is one that always makes it a grueling experience for the protagonist, and Kiersey Clemons does a great job at showcasing the strength of Black women in any given situation.

14. Octavia Spencer, ‘Ma’ (2019)

Adults trying to be too friendly with teens is horrifying in itself, and Octavia Spencer as the ‘”ma” of Ma really brought life to that type of character with depth and admittedly some humor. 

15. Janelle Monáe, ‘Antebellum’ (2020)

The plot is probably every Black person’s nightmare, and Janelle Monáe does a great job at expressing the anxiety one might feel by being forced back into modern day slavery.