A couple of nights ago I put on pants and attended a screening of Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present.
As you can tell from the title it’s a documentary that explores race and the black experience from the usual Birth of a Nation right up to Get Out and all the horror movies in between including Blacula. Remember Blacula?!
Seeing the schlocky horror movies from the 50, 60s, and 70s made me mourn what we’ve lost. I “discovered” movies like Blacula on late night cable.
There was a glorious period where you’re not old enough to go out but you’re up late on Friday and Saturday nights…and you’d stumble upon hidden gems like Blacula, the Blob, Creature from the Black Lagoon…Vincent Price movies.
You kids with your newfangled Netflix…they treat tv like a booty call: they log in, get what they want, when they want and leave…Hey Netflix you up?
We had a relationship with shows that screened these horror movies: Creature Feature (showing the Universal Horror movies!!), Elvira’s Movie Macabre gave wayward youths 2 pretty solid reasons to tune in…anybody remember Off Beat Cinema all shot in black and white with beatniks hosts: “hey cool cats we got Night of the Living Dead and daddy-o’s gonna be in trouble.” Then he’d adjust his beret and we’d be On The Road.
Our pop culture was so broad because we were just consuming all this stuff…it was only later that we became selective (and perhaps sophisticated…defending our taste with phrases like “guilty pleasure.”).
But initially and wonderfully we had this broad foundation of fantastic images stitched together from flipping through late night tv channels where inevitably we’d discover a moment that would make us stop and ask what is happening here?
There was no context for anything…nobody used words like Blaxploitation and as a kid it never occurred to me all these karate movies were actually foreign movies. Oh…yeah.
We developed a common language (“I vant to suck your blood!”) and were in so deep that even Count von Count on Sesame Street was entirely natural…it’s a vampire-Muppet that’s a parody of Bela Lugosi and we got the joke! That’s crazy!! (It also never made sense…Muppets don’t have blood…what does Count suck?!)
I’m happy we have streaming…I don’t miss taping the wrong show or reruns. I sometimes send Netflix the Eggplant Emoji; we’re all guilty of that. Hey Netflix you up?
It’s just a moment recognizing what we’ve lost…we zip through so many changes…cord phones, cordless phones, mobile phones…because these changes are happening so quickly our Wonder Years narrator doesn’t have time to process everything and come up with a pithy takeaway.
If your house is on fire you’re quickly grabbing stuff and getting out…it’s only later that you realize what you’ve lost; it’s never in the moment.
This observation has nothing to do with the documentary per say…this is what I was thinking about watching it…it’s a fun doc…currently airing on Shudder if you want to check it out.
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair podcast: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.