Welcome to the SURVIVAL GUIDE... Here you will find observations, theories, and reviews of some of my favorite horror films/television shows. I've always thought of horror films/shows as looking into the depths of someone's mind. I believe horror offers one the opportunity to bring forth their demons/darkest thoughts. As we find ourselves imitating art, I think it's no coincidence that some of the elements we see in horror films/tv shows can be based on real life events. As a Black woman who loves horror films/tv, it is important to reflect on the positionality of Black people in these spaces and what that means for us to survive on screen and in "real" life, if we survive at all.
"Jezelle and the Creeper"
"Jeepers Creepers" Directed By: Victor Salva (2001)
"The knowing is the horror and to see it is a scary movie."- Breanna Taylor.
"The creeper & jezelle."
For some reason when watching this film recently, I was reminded of Aunt Hester's scream and maybe how it's not of this world. It rings in from some unearthly place, some place that only womanness can place you. Some place that Blackness continues to cut and refine. Maybe her scream can still be heard. Maybe it comes in the form of a disciplinary yell, maybe it's a dream, maybe it's the truth. The truth ringing in our eardrums, making us reach into the canal of our ear and shake it loose. Yet and still, the truth remains and to not know it is to die in naivete. Jazz singer and activist, Abbey Lincoln stresses the need to stay in the knowing as she reflects on her song 'Protest,' " I just want to be of use to my ancestors/It's holy work and it's dangerous not to know that 'cause you could die like an animal down here."
The 'down here' correlates with the unearthly place in which Aunt Hester's scream still rings in from. I see it as ' the hold' or the space in which bodies were held in the bowels of the slave ship. If we accept her scream as truth, or her being able to see all that there is from her outside-looking-in position, then Jezelle's clairvoyance in 'Jeepers Creepers,' is the reverberation of it. The holy work that keeps her in the knowing. Jezelle (Patricia Belcher), a local, clairvoyant in the film serves as an aid to the police in which she has helped to find missing persons using her gift of sight. It is here that I realize Jezelle's role takes on the trope of the 'magical savior,' in which her character is indebted to the survival of the white protagonists of the movie, through the use of her gifts which are seen as 'magical'. This role is not unfamiliar to Black characters in horror, but especially Black wimmin, and specifically those who would not be deemed 'acceptable' for a variety of reasons (size, color, beauty, etc) in society.
The main characters, Trish and Darry first encounter Jezelle when they receive a call from her at a diner where they visit after another encounter with 'The Creeper.' I see the call as the scream ringing in from another place, in which we are unable to see Jezelle, but hear her voice. The sonic power that this particular scene holds, is not simply because we can't see her but because the characters have never met her. Her call is one of warning, in which she warns them of 'The Creeper,' and how to try and stay alive. The characters reject the warning but its power refuses to wane, as we see the characters encounter 'The Creeper' again, having been told more about what to avoid. We finally meet Jezelle when Trish and Darry arrive at the police station.
Jezelle came knowing the truth but in some way tried to conceal it, for it was too much for her to bare to know but also for Trish and Darry to know too. She explained to the siblings what she saw and how the next series of events would take place with 'The Creeper.' A moment between Jezelle, Trish, and Darry that stood out the most to me was when Darry went to grab Jezelle's face and shook her while asking, "are your dreams ever wrong?" Given all of my reading in Black studies/hauntology and my understanding of intuition and spirit, I understood this question in a different light.
In rewording Darry's question, I understood him to be asking Jezelle, "how do I know you speak the truth? what gives you the premise to be able to speak it?" I understand the truth in the context of this film as knowing and recognizing that at the center of the white imagination/reality, humanness is seen as the most powerful thing. Therefore, anything outside of that “reality,” is not accepted as truth. Blackness has been positioned outside of humanity by the nature of our world, therefore we have had to come to see our existence as something other than human, because we were told that we weren’t, yet still expected to be in this world but not of it. By this logic, it’s a no brainer that the truth teller is a black womxn, being Jezelle with the ability to “see” into the reality of whiteness and warn those who live within it that there is a danger approaching ('The Creeper).
What if the “seeing” is just the acceptance of the truth? Let's be real, no one likes the truth. All of it sounds good in theory, but we don't enjoy it. Even moreso, we dread being the ones to have to tell it. In our world, Black wimmin have constantly had to be truth tellers, bringing news of everyone's demise (including our own) to try and save everyone. Either way it goes, Black wimmin have always tried to save us. Save us from what you may ask? Maybe disappointment, maybe wasted energy, maybe from our own fear of dying. But either way it goes, Black wimmin have tried to step up and tell the truth, even when we knew no one would hear it. A scream ringing in from another place.
"Lovecraft Country": Episode 3, 'Holy Ghost.'
Creator: Misha Green, Episode Directed By: Daniel Sackheim
"I'll never get used to seeing Black people and their bodies be used for the advancement of the yt imagination."- Breanna Taylor
If you have had the opportunity to tune into Misha Green's remix of H.P. Lovecraft's work, 'Lovecraft Country,' then I'm sure you can understand the horror of episode 3, 'Holy Ghost.' What I found to be horrific in the episode was having to see the torn, disemboweled, bodies of Black people that were killed during experimentation. Mind you, our entire way of living is an experiment! While the show itself is situated between, fiction, history, and horror, we all know that the history of experimentation on Black bodies runs deep. In fact, three of the victims' names in the episode (Anarcha, Betsey , and Lucy) were actual victims of J. Marion Sims', who experimented on enslaved Black wimmin. Given that these wimmin were enslaved, they could not consent or reject the operations. It is to be noted that those procedures took place without anesthesia, because he believed 'black people could handle more pain/or not even feel it,' while Anarcha alone had 30 surgical operations that she underwent for him to "perfect" his methods. In being introduced to the term, 'medical superbody,' today and connecting that with the trope of the 'black superwoman,' it is no surprise that this sinful ideology still invades our way of thinking and viewing Black people, and how Black wimmin still bear the brunt of it all. Ironic enough, J. Marion Sims was the first person I thought of when we found out how and why those spirits were trapped in the house in the episode.
I don't think that I will never not be scared or extremely uncomfortable, for lack of a better word when I see dead Black bodies. I can remember the first time I seen Emmett Till's body after his murder and not being able to sleep without a light on, or even visualizing the bodies of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair after visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church. The countless lynchings that I've been subjected to viewing still ties a knot in my stomach. It wasn't until I learned the stories that I felt this fear somewhat dissipate. In thinking of being introduced to the ghosts before knowing their stories, I believe it highlights a point about the yt imagination and one of the purposes that experimentation serves. White experimentation on Black people’s bodies forces us to see ourselves through their eyes, in fragments, in pieces, torn apart. Does that not scare you at all? I would like to think that when we call to one another, when we lean on one another, and learn the stories of one another, it is there when we realize how whole we’ve been the entire time. We have to acknowledge those as they were before and not who we've been bent to see.
We see this same thing happen with Leti, who goes to investigate the history of the house she bought after receiving a hint that it might be "haunted." What I found to be interesting was the fact that Leti never seen the ghosts until later on, but she knew they were there. She comes to know the stories of the people and later calls on them to help cast out their murderer. Before Hiram (the murderer) completely disappears, he begins to look around the chanting circle. What we come to see are the victims becoming 'whole' again as Hiram (almost Marion's name spelled backwards) fades away. I found this to be the moment that brought me to tears (coupled with the singing of Shirley Caesar). Leti ushers the 'Holy Ghost' into the space through the naming of the victims and the holy work of encouraging them to take part in their own restorative justice. To understand the power of that scene in particular, is to not only imagine what justice could look like going forward, but how we can actually manifest it for those who have passed on. We still walk alongside the ghosts of the past, simply because they haven't passed. Our duty is to learn the stories of those who we have lost in this experimentation and bring them forth. The stories matter, they always have. It’s when we forget them, that we see the ghosts as nothing other than ghosts, in fragments, in pieces, torn apart.
"The past is never dead. It's not even past.”- William Faulkner.
Things to Check Out!
1. #LovecraftCountry hashtag on Twitter!
"What Childhood do you speak of?"
"Lovecraft Country": Episode 8, 'Jig-A-Bobo'
Creator: Misha Green, Episode Directed By: Misha Green
"Black kids don't get to be kids."- Every Black Person Who Knows the Truth.
*To help keep my analysis/points organized, I'm going to explain using the pictures as a reference. Enjoy!
Emmett 'Bobo' Till: Image One
Episode 8 of Lovecraft Country, throws us into the throes of Emmett Till's funeral. If you are not familiar with the story of Emmett, or just simply want to learn more please click on the link below! I previously mentioned in ('Fragmented Vision) not being able to sleep after seeing the face of Emmett following his murder, so I do want to warn you before watching the documentary, that his pictures may be shown (been a while since I last seen the doc).
Ruby, "He looked like a monster.": Image Two
Following Emmett's funeral, Ruby travels to Christina's home where she is skin-walking as William. Ruby goes on to describe what she felt after viewing the open-casket of Emmett. This description is not far off from how I've heard other people try and describe what Emmett resembled after being brutalized. Ruby's description also ties into a point that I will make in the next paragraph. I'm also reminded of how Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and the countless number of Black children that have been killed are then positioned as aggressors and monsters to have their deaths justified.
Topsy & Bobsey: Image Three
Topsy and Bobsey, a caricature of Black children and more specifically Black girls in this case, gives a nod to the stereotype of Black children being unkept, wild, disorderly, and typically geared at dark-skinned Black children. The stereotype has its ties to the enslavement of Black people and its comedic roots in minstrel shows, which were used to mock the ways/rituals of Black people. Black children were referred to as 'pickaninnies.' Pickaninny, originally used by groups of people in the West Indies to indicate that a child/object was small, was later on used as a racial and derogatory term. Topsy, a character from Harriet Beacher Stowe's "anti-slavery" novel, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' would be an example of a pickaninny, hence why we see a copy of the novel throughout the episode. *Side note, can we just talk about how they ate that choreography? One thing Black people will always be rulers over is the dance arena!
The Funeral: Image Four
Considering that Topsy and Bobsey appear to Dee after she has been 'cursed' by Lancaster, I believe this highlights a very important notion; Black children don't get to be children. I see the appearance of Topsy and Bobsey in the climate of Emmett's funeral as a juxtaposition. If you remember at the funeral, Ruby recalls that Emmett was a 'sweet boy.' As the adults try and rally together to support Dee, Montrose recalls that babying her through the process does not provide the support she really needs. In fact, he proclaims that 'this is her rite of passage.' If we couple Ruby and Montrose' statement along with the appearance of the twins, what we come to see is a split vision. Ruby highlights the humanity of Emmett, while Lancaster exposes Dee to what Black children are seen as through the white imagination. Revisiting Ruby's statement of Emmett 'looking like a monster,' I find it interesting that in front of Montrose, Leti, and Tic, Emmett was a 'sweet boy.' When she goes to vent to Christina, she has to describe what she saw in a way that Christina will understand, 'Emmett resembling a monster.' Furthermore what we come to understand is that Black children are monsters/demons as long as the white imagination rules us all.
Christina: Image Five
As mentioned in the explanation for image four, Ruby goes to outpour to Christina in the wake of Emmett's funeral. In a way, I feel that Ruby does this as an emotional dump, in which she can rid herself of her feelings by giving them all to Christina. The sex scene between Ruby (white woman from episode 2) and Christina (William) is proof of that. Ruby goes so far as to explain why she initiates the skin-walking change prior to having sex, yet Christina remains void of empathy. In fact, Ruby charges Christina up by prompting her to acknowledge the pain that is rippling throughout Chicago because Emmett. Christina does not. She responds by telling Ruby that she doesn't care and even suggests that Ruby herself doesn't care, that the feelings are of obligation to her people and not genuity.
We later see Christina encounter two white men, who beat her, shoot her, and sink her body in the river by tying a cotton gin around her neck. It is no surprise this is the same manner in which Emmett Till is killed. This scene sparked a few thoughts for me:
1. I see Christina's overall position in the episode as a nod to Carol Bryant, the woman responsible for Emmett's death, who is still alive to this day, never knowing the amount of pain, hopelessness, and despair she caused. I see this through Christina's apathy and her explanation of it when she spoke with Ruby.
2. I find it interesting that yt people have to immerse themselves in the experience of trauma and pain, because it is the only way to understand the extent of what they've envisioned. I speak about the white imagination often, because its impact has shielded white people from comprehension and empathy, hence why Christina uses the encounter to try and feel the pain Ruby spoke of, while also testing her own immortality and invulnerability. Even in that act, it is one of selfishness.
3. Can we also acknowledge how rare it is to see white women undergo this type of treatment on film/television?
*Now don't get me wrong, I would rather not see the brutalization of anybody but as Christina mentioned in her conversation with Tic, "perfect alignment upsets the balance of nature.' In that same vein, the white imagination normalizes the viewing of brutalization against Black and POC bodies so much and so often, that we've come to accept it as "natural." In a world outside of the white imagination, if one had to see brutalization, white people would not be exempt from it either, therefore the balance of "nature" would be upset.
Dee: Image Six
I would definitely consider this episode to be Dee's stand alone episode. With much of the emphasis being centered around Black children, I think this episode is spooky on purpose. Mind you, the entire show is that way on purpose lol but I see this as Dee's bubble bursting. She already understands that because she's Black and a girl, she is subjected to unfair treatment and violence. But to lose someone close to her at her age, speaks to a different type of scary for her. We see this with her throwing rocks at two black girls, (potentially a foreshadow of Topsy & Bobsey) laughing as they leave out of a candy store, waving and smiling at Dee. The girls run across the street as Dee yells 'ain't nothing to laugh about.' It's a looming reminder that children can die too, especially Black children. Revisiting the point of Black kids not being able to be kids, I remember the scene in which we see Dee on her way back to the house where she is met by Leti leaving out. The scene is juxtaposed with three white girls jumping rope enjoying their day as if nothing happened, while Dee is literally on the run from Topsy and Bobsey. More and more, it becomes painfully clear that a childhood for Black children is damned and cursed as long as the white imagination persists.
Some of my own theories about what could happen or what is happening....
1. We know that Leti now bears the mark of invulnerability thanks to Christina. In episode 7 when Tic goes into the portal to try and save Hippolyta, he understands that he has traveled to the future, in which he comes back with the book his son wrote. I believe in the show as well as in real life that every choice has a future. We also know that Christina is gunning to be immortal, in which Tic discloses to Montrose that Christina is going to sacrifice him to achieve immortality. Given the nature of the show and all of its twists and turns, I don't see that future coming into fruition. That would be too obvious right? Instead, I see Leti possibly sacrificing herself to save Tic, in which she will remove her mark of invulnerability (like Christina's father in episode 2), but instead of her liver being cut out, it will be their son.
2. I think the snoggoloth that saved Leti, Tic, Ruby, and the housemates at the end of the episode could be Uncle George, Tic's mama, or even Hanna since she carries The Book of Names.
3. This isn't necessarily a theory of what will happen, but I found myself somewhat geeked to see Topsy & Bobsey. Why? I remember Wayne (yes Lil Wayne) once said, "sometimes you got to fight the devil with a demon." I was hoping that Dee would embrace Topsy and Bobsey as a way to extract her revenge on Landcaster, and at large could aid Tic, Letti, Montrose, and Ruby in taking down Christina. I think with Black people turning to the "demonic" as a way to combat evil could be an interesting way to rewrite the horror they're experiencing. The demonic in this case is what whiteness has named Blackness. A monstrosity always. I believe Blackness can completely shift horror in this show as well as through the creation of more horror films/shows. There is still a horror undiscovered. Hmmm, idk just throwing thoughts out there.