The Thesis & Theory


My Final Girl the story of my journey as an African American woman, filmmaker and scholar of horror to find the roots and living legacy of Black Women in American Horror Cinema. This film will explore gender and race in the context of the popular American theory “The Final Girl” by Carol Clover. In her book “Men, Women and Chainsaws” Clover postulates that the last girl (white girl) to survive in Modern day American slasher horror films have many parallels to the average adolescent boy (Virgin, masculine name and physique, smart enough to see most of the clues laid out in the plot).

This documentary will focus mainly on the prominent shift in gender then in race positioning of horror during the Grind House & Blaxploitation film periods of the 1970’s into the early 80’s that show that strong: white men, then black men, then black women, ending with the commercial success of the white woman as the Horror heroine (Final Girl).  More specifically, this piece will dissect that theory in reviewing the pass over of the black women in the genre, through interviews, research and footage.

Were there lead & standout black female characters in American horror? YES!

From Laura Bowman (Son of Ingagi-1940) to Marlene Clark (Ganja & Hess-1973) Markie Bey (Sugar Hill-1974) Gloria Gifford (Halloween II) and Beverly Bonner (Basket Case-1982) many under-acknowledged black actresses have portrayed note-worthy, strong and determined characters in American Horror Cinema.

How were the black actresses in early American Horror portrayed?

From tribal rape victim to Doctor – Ingagi versus Son of Ingagi

In the early days of cinema, black female characters were historically relegated to representations such as tribal sacrifices or often bit parts. And with the success of films such as “Birth of a Nation” (1915), and the loosely classified docu/horror “Ingagi” (1930) as well as the wildly popular “King Kong” (1933) blacks and especially, Black women, were positioned in alignment with or abused by beasts. Thereafter, African Americans filmmakers sought to brand their own films, called “Race films”. An example of this was Spencer Williams’s “Son of Ingagi”, which was one of the first black horror films to also feature a black woman (Laura Bowman) in the lead role as an educated character. A possible response to Ingagi (it namesake) Son of Ingagi’s all black cast with a female lead, marked a milestone for black women in horror which would still require many years for a real presence to be acknowledged.  

As the Race films died out, where was the next resurgence of black female leads in Horror. Grind House & Blaxploitation Horror.

In the late 1960’s through the 1970’s and into the early 1980’s there was a large trend of low-budget Drive-in movie style cinema called Grind House. And in the same breath an Inner City versioning of the low-budget action/sex/violence film emerged – “Blaxploitation”.  In the ladder, black actresses such as Pam Grier, Marlene Clark, Markei Bey, Gloria Gifford, and Beverly Bonner found work and were often featured (if not leads) in these horror narratives. Ironically, history and pop culture have favored Black male roles such as “Blacula” -Blacula (William Marshall) and “Ben”-Night of the Living Dead (Duane Jones) as the few iconic figures of color in the horror genre.

  • This documented journey will explore Black Women in American Horror.

  • This piece will also question why theses women have received little attention.

  • An additional consideration will be made in regards to the Hollywood studio’s relegation and the cultural response to these women from their race and even the civil rights movement.

  • This documentary will include interviews with actresses Marlene Clark (Ganja from Ganja & Hess), Gloria Gifford (Nurse Alves-Halloween II) and Beverly Bonner (Casey-Basket Case) as well as film scholars; Isabel Pinedo (writer of Recreational Terror) and Robin R Means Coleman (writer of Horror Noire), Composer Sam Waymon (Actor/Composer-Ganja & Hess, Brother of Nina Simone), Chiz Schultz (Producer –Ganja & Hess), William Crain (Director-Blacula)

  • My additional hope is to facilitate a film event that crosses over Black History (February) and Women’s History Month (March) {February 27th – March 2nd.

About me…

I’m a black female filmmaker/scholar who has loved the genre since I was a kid watching my first horror film “An American Werewolf in London” when I was small.  I’ve loved the genre so much that I am completing my second Master’s degree in Media Arts on Feminism and Horror. My 1st Masters thesis was published in 2011 “Objectification Repackaged: The Women of 21st century French Horror” focuses the female characters of French Horror films over the decades and how American cinema influenced a shift into strong and vicious characters. My next step with my MFA was inspired by my daughter who woke from her nap while I was watching Basket Case and spouted out “Oh no, spooky basket”. Looking at my daughter and myself as females of African-American descent, my answer was clear-a film to document our horror heritage. My scholarship was leading me back to my roots, on a variety of levels as a *Woman*, *African*, and *American*.

About this project…I wasn’t sure if this was a paper, project or pothole that I was delving into, but throughout long hours in large libraries, sweet chats, heart attacks, strokes and agents. I’ve begun the journey of a lifetime, my lifetime and my heritage and my genre as I look at the Black Women of American horror and attempt to capture their stories and explore this world.