As a first wave-Millenial, I'm not entirely well versed on just how much 1970s Blaxsploitation, in particular the genre's horror re-interpretations have struck a chord with the mass film going audience. I've heard stories from parents and grandparents that expressed personal, irrational fears based on these films due to racial identification. Outside of this cinematic Chitlin Circuit, I've only observed the fringe film enthusiasts give real credence to this sub genre. But filmmaker Kristina Leath-Malin has set a course to dig deeper into this dusty historical film period by not just unraveling the socio-political significance of the stories told, but the stories of those who gave birth to the characters; "the Bad Ass Black Horror Heroine".
A "Production Chick" by trade, Leath-Malin is also a CG artist, animator, published writer, blogger and Brooklyn, New York dweller. Her passion for horror extends to her published book, Objectification Repackaged: The Women of 21st Century French Horror, a very active New York-based meet-up group for female horror fans, and her upcoming documentary tracing a period in film history notable for African American female participation in the horror genre with My Final Girl: The Black Women of 70s Horror Cinema.
Serving as her Master of Fine Arts thesis, My Final Girl focuses on "the black female characters of 1970's to early 1980's horror cinema. The intent of this film is to show how these women were the 1st feminist game changers in horror, before Creed and Clover's Final Girl-Ripley." From my reading of Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman's book, Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890's to Present (an upcoming part of this series) and the phrase the "Enduring Women" that she uses while discussing the Blaxsploitation era's re-imagining of classic macabre stories, Leath-Malin makes a compelling argument for the importance of and to celebrate the Black women in these films. The point is furthered through her discussions with women of color scholars, the actresses in these body of films, even female fans "who looked to these women as role models in their youth."
The statement she makes by titling her documentary My Final Girl is a powerful one. There is an overwhelming sentiment that goes unspoken in horror fandom that people of color, particularly Black women aren't interested nor active participants. For those of us nerdy enough to cross state lines for horror cons and dedicate serious, academic projects on the genre, it's not hard to imagine these thoughts from the vantage point of women of color are far-fetched. The use of my is a stern reclamation that pulls Black women from the cliff of the margin and inspires visibility for Black women in horror both in front of and behind the camera.
With enough recognition, my hope for My Final Girl is that it sparks a movement amongst all women of color to claim that visibility in present horror cinema images and share similar creative works with each other in social media and those outside of our racial groups to show the progression that 21st century actually has made and pick up where the 70s left off.
Ashlee is currently the Sponsorship Director for Women in Horror Month and a“horror academic nerd”. She also digs vegan desserts and would like to teach classes about horror movies. More of her musings can be found at www.quirksandsplatters.com