Trailer Terrors: Sugar Hill (1974)

Black History Month may be over, but that doesn't mean its too late to diversify my paltry palette of horror. Though Sugar Hill (1974) can hardly be heralded as a cultural cornerstone of African American cinema, its nonetheless a unique perspective on the zombie genre.

A mixture of zombie stereotypes, with a particular emphasis on the ever misinterpreted voodoo lore, Sugar Hill was blaxploitation served straight up. The plot revolves around a strong female lead, Diana ‘Sugar’ Hill (Marki Bey), who loses her boyfriend to a group of mafioso mob bosses. In vengeance, Sugar seeks out the supernatural assistance of a local voodoo priestess named Mama Celesete (Zara Cully) with connections to a loa (god-like being) named Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) with power over the dead. Together they proceed to raise a zombified hit squad (of course, that makes perfect sense).

Though not particularly scary in any real sense, the film is notable for its rather offbeat depiction of zombies complete with large, orb-like eyeballs, painted skeletal appearance and an encrustation of cobwebs covering their bodies. Though I haven't seen this same depiction emerge in many other films, its interesting to note that a similar stylization later appears in John Carpenter's They Live! (albeit in a higher budgeted form).

Released in the same period as Blackula (1972) and Abby (1974), the film suffers from evident racial stereotypes and low-budgetary standards, but remains a worthwhile Netflix rental for those seeking to diversify their Saturday night lineup. Plus, its directed by Paul Maslansky who went onto to produce many of the films in the Police Academy franchise. So really its win, lose or draw.


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