Tananarive Due once described Black horror stories as a necessary way to tackle our demons from a safe distance. A way to explore and heal the trauma of our past. The quote was made from an interview in the 2019 issue of Uncanny Magazine. Due was shaping up conversation on why horror and black audiences fit together so well together. However, the Due’s words also work to explain the complexities of the film Red Pill and why it is one horror film that no one can afford to miss.
Red Pill was written, directed, produced, and financed by up-and-coming actress and author Tonya Pinkins. She is also an accomplished actress who starred also stars in this film as Cassandra. Cassandra and her diverse group of friends go to Virginia to canvas for the upcoming (2020) election. They are a Black man who is an immigrant from an African nation Bobby, a Latino man Rocky (Ruben Blades), a Czech national Emelia (Luba Mason), a white man, Nick and white woman, Lily (Kathryn Erbe). Along the way, they see a sign with racist slurs, naming the types of people not allowed in the area. Everyone in the car, except Cassandra, ignored the sign and kept going. For the first of many times, Cassandra feels the need to turn back.
At the house they rented online, they find even more signs of weirdness, strange alters that make Nick (Jack O’Flaherty) bray like a donkey, people watching them, and owners who are very strange. They seem to be watching the group. Later that night at dinner, Cassandra feels eyes on them. She is right—there are hidden “eyes” watching their every move. She tells her companion Bobby (Adesola A. Osakalumi), but he doesn’t believe her. No one does until it’s too late.
After a day, things get weird. Bobby goes missing and the others don’t seem to care. Cassandra explores the property and is also looking for Bobby. The other go to explore the town. Cassandra finds some weird and racist memorabilia and decides that she will leave now. However, it may be too late. Their less than hospitable hosts seem to have other plans.
The story in Red Pill is one that cuts between a view of Cassandra and her eclectic group to the hosts who have become spectators to a horrible and very fatal game of torture. Audiences will laugh at the absurd attempt that the hosts make to ritualize their dirty work. The culturally appropriated practices are grossly misrepresented here and are the type of things that your would expect from such people. It’s a funny display of whiteness as is the scene where the matriarch of the host family, Mercy (Catherine Curtin) appears to have an orgasmic reaction to the torture.
I also want to note that Cassandra’s struggle to be heard stands in stark comparison to these white women. The latter’s words are driving the murderous acts against Cassandra and her friends. The men seem to be following the orders of the white women, who continue to shock us and Cassandra through the end of the film. Pinkins is not shy in her message here or anywhere else in the film.
Red Pill has so many other themes, symbiology, and messages awaiting the audience throughout the film. The trauma of racism, and sexism as it pertains to Black women proves to be well suited for horror and this film proves it. The horror element is a perfect vehicle for explaining what it feels like to be an unheard Black woman in America.
Go to redpillmovie2020.com to find out where the film is playing next. Don’t miss a chance to see it if you can.
Rating 4.5 of 5
— Tonya Pinkins (@tonyapinkins) June 27, 2020
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