Professor Robin R. Means Coleman, the author of Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present, grew up in the right time and place to become a horror fan, namely Pittsburgh in the 1970s. It would have been almost impossible to avoid being bitten by “the zombie-bug” in this era in Pittsburgh, when some of the greatest and most influential horror films were being created in and around the city by the legendary George Romero.
Luckily, Means became a horror fan due to this influence, because if she didn’t, none of us would be able to read her critical dissection and history of the role of Black actors, writers, and directors in horror films. Horror News Network had the pleasure of interviewing Means Coleman about her book and recent developments in the genre, most significantly, Jordan Peele’s smash success of 2017, Get Out.
Horror News Network: In the introduction to your book Horror Noire, you reflect on how you became a fan as a young girl.
Robin R. Means Coleman: Yes, Romero’s films, both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead were always in constant rotation at our local drive-in. It was impossible not to see those films, since they were shot in Pittsburgh and everyone was aware of them. Even before Romero’s films, Pittsburgh has always had a tradition of horror. We had “Chilly Billy” hosting Chiller Theater, showing all of the classic horror movies such as Godzilla, The Wolf Man, Dracula; it became a part of our diet.
HNN: Where did your interest in scholarly research regarding horror stem from?
Means Coleman: It was really due to the ending of Night of the Living Dead. When Ben is killed and disposed of at the end of the film, it was a lot for me to process as a child. I remember turning to my mother and grandmother and asking them “Can they do that?” It was at the time, and still is, one of the most powerful moments ever captured in cinema. That film was powerful, truthful, and full of meaning.