Jordan Peele’s Get Out opened two weeks ago with an impressive $30.5 million in box office sales and you know what that means?
We can expect to see 22,378 versions of this smash hit in theaters by next Black History Month.
And that’s not a bad thing.
I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of seeing us only in romantic comedies and dramas about how hard and dysfunctional our lives are.
In the immortal words of the Wu, we gotta diversify…
Therefore to help out the Hollywood executives who are likely scrolling the internet looking for ideas (to steal), I have created a short list of books by Black authors that will make great thrillers and horror movies.
And in no particular order of importance…
by Octavia Butler
Honestly, we are many moons past the point of having the work of Queen of all things speculative fiction turned into the film. And with an extensive catalog of classics to choose from, which includes my personal favorite series The Parables of the Sowers/Talent and Mind of My Mind (Patternist series), it’s hard to narrow it down to just one film. But if I had to, I definitely think Hollywood should take a closer look at Fledgling.
What is it about?
Well, it’s a story about a 10-year-old half-vampire and half-African-American human who is being stalked and hunted by a family of powerful pure-blood (Ina) vampires who feel her presence is a desecration and threat to the purity of the Ina vampire lineage.
That’s right, even the vamps are racist.
With its subtle critique on race and gender – without explicitly being about race and gender – a film version of Fledgling would not only give the vampire lore new and diverse life but it also has all the makings of a deeply disturbing movie classic.
Minion (Vampire Huntress Series)
The best way to describe the debut horror fiction novel by this Philadelphia-born, multifaceted writer (prior to writing scary-ass stories, Banks used to write romance books), is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Russell Simmons’ Presents Def Poetry Jam.
In short, it’s a story about a Black artist named Damali Richards who wows crowds by day with her jazz-infused spoken word and by night, kick-ass as a vampire slayer.
She also has a cool (and equally fierce with the slays) backup band.
Granted the plot is not all that different from the types of vampire slayer flicks we’ve seen before. But representation matters. And I am sure young Black women will appreciate seeing a Hip-Hop version of themselves playing the hero on film.
And with 12 books in the Vampire Vampire Huntress Legend series, the good news is there are plenty of opportunities for sequels.
Take that Twilight fans.
My Soul to Keep
by Tananarive Due
There are lies that men tell and then there are damn lies…
That is the basis for Tananarive Due’s bone-chilling My Soul to Keep. But instead of this being just another tawdry tale about a dishonest husband, Due switches the game up by introducing us to Jessica, a middle-class African-American woman who has discovered her perfect husband is actually a 400-year old Ethiopian carrier of Jesus’ blood.
A page-turner to say the least and possibly a great film adaptation.
My Soul to Keep is the first of four stories in Due’s African Immortal Series, so there is obvious potential for sequels for this one too. And with its Judeo-Christian themes, with particular emphasis on Christianity’s Ethiopian roots, a film version of this book will not only go over well with the Black Church crowd but also our antiquity-obsessed HOTEPs in the community.
Hell, it might be a good project for Tyler Perry – just as long as he keeps Madea out of it.
by Tananarive Due
I really wanted to avoid duplicate authors on this list; however, there is no denying the supernatural genius of this Bram Stoker Award-winning author. And in her debut novel, The Between, we meet protagonist Hilton James, a drug counselor from Dade County Florida who is suffering from nightmares, which have him questioning reality. This is happening at the same time his wife Dede, the newly-elected first African American county judge, is receiving racist hate mail from someone she once prosecuted.
Is he mad? Or is there something more supernatural afoot?
This detective story/ horror book would not make an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but its plot twist would make even M. Night Shyamalan blush.
Brown Girl in the Ring
by Nalo Hopkinson
You know why we rarely see Black people in dysphoric films?
It’s because we’re trapped behind Donald Trump’s wall.
And that is the premise of Nalo Hopkinson award-winning novel Brown Girl in the Ring. Set in the wasteland future version of Toronto, the affluent have fled the city and barricaded the roads so that the poor and mostly people of color can’t get out. And as the poor must find creative ways to survive, including reverting back to the barter system and homegrown herbs for medicine, they must also find ways to defend themselves from the rich who threaten to harvest their bodies for spare parts.
What’s great about this book (as well as many others on the list) is that the protagonist is a Black woman with magical powers and connections to the ancestral spirit world. What would make this appealing as a film is that it presents an opportunity to reclaim the often misappropriated (and demonized) narrative around Afro-Caribbean folklore and culture, particularly vodou.
Basically, this book is everything AHS: The Coven wanted to be.
The Tempest Tales
by Walter Mosley
Technically, this is more speculative fiction than horror or thriller. But much like Get Out, its premise challenges the way we view good vs. evil.
Basically, it’s a story set in Harlem and the main protagonist, a Black career criminal named Tempest, has just been shot down “accidentally” by the police. Upon his arrival at the pearly gates, he is greeted by St. Peter who tells him that he will not be admitted to heaven and instead must go to Hell. Tempest objects, citing racism and asks how could a Black man be judged ‘guilty’ in a world already set out to do wrong against him?
Initially, St. Peter is like #AllLivesMatter. But eventually he agrees to sends Tempest back to Harlem with an angel whose only purpose is to get Tempest to own up to his guilt.
And knowing how the brothers like to spit game, you can only imagine where this story goes next…
Like I said, this would not make much of a horror film – then again, there is no other scarier prospect than getting “accidentally” shot down by the police. Plus, in the wake of Black Lives Matter, it’s definitely a story of our times. And on film, audiences will enjoy a slow-burner and would require folks to use their thinking caps more than usual.
Okay, that is my short list. I am certain I am leaving a few out. If you have any suggestions for the thieving-behind Hollywood execs, leave them in the comment section below.
Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic and smarty-pants Black feminist from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.
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