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Horror Film Tackling Brooklyn Gentrification Kills Off Newcomers

By Camille Bautista | November 11, 2016 5:44pm | Updated on November 14, 2016 2:53pm
"White Knuckle," a slasher film about gentrification, addresses the issues of cultures and communities under threat, the director says.
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Xavier Coleman

Brooklyn’s newcomers are getting the axe in a horror film about the borough’s gentrification.

White Knuckle,” a movie in the works from filmmaker Xavier Coleman, follows young adults who recently moved into a rapidly changing neighborhood as a killer is on the loose targeting gentrifiers.

The victims — a student, an artist and a budding venture capitalist — meet their end at the hands of an unknown assailant, and the main characters attempt to discover the murderer’s identity.

Coleman, 26, who said he always had an affinity for slasher films, came up with the idea for “White Knuckle” shortly after moving to Bedford-Stuyvesant and seeing the neighborhood change.

“I definitely felt change over the course of even a couple of years on the same block,” he said.

“I think specifically, it was more than just a racial demographic which is a visual marker, but more than anything a lack of communication and becoming a less communal area, receiving less hellos and saying less hellos.”

Coleman moved from Boston to New York City in 2011 and said he wanted to find a way to approach the issue and tackle it from his experience. 

“There are conversations about who the killer might be, black criminology, black pathology, what it might mean if the killer is a life-long local, and what it might mean if the killer is somebody who is a gentrifier themselves,” he said.

“It’s a conversation about who a neighborhood belongs to, not only in terms of actual physical space, but also culturally.”

READ MORE: Bushwick's Hipsters Bite The Dust in This Slasher Flick

Director and writer Xavier Coleman (right) and script supervisor Janeth Gonda behind the scenes of horror film, "White Knuckle." Photo credit: Casey Regan

The film, which the director says is between 16 and 19 minutes long, was shot in Bed-Stuy and montage sequences featuring historic, cultural sites in various stages of decay were filmed around the neighborhood as well as Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and East New York.

The movie’s name takes its meaning from the concept of a “white knuckle thrill ride,” Coleman said, and also references the thriller and slasher aspects. The horror film “Scream” was also an inspiration in terms of the project's framing and dialogue.

“The other side of ‘White Knuckle’ is the idea of knuckling or strong-arming someone, and that’s definitely a way a lot of people view gentrification: somebody pushing and somebody else being pushed,” Coleman said, adding that the name also touches on the American identity and black and white America.

The cast and crew are mostly made up of women and people of color — communities whose voices are important for social commentary, the director said.

“In the wake of everything that’s come to light this week with the election, I hope people leave ‘White Knuckle’ thinking not only about the the threats which minorities and minority cultures face, but also leave with a feeling of motivation to practice inclusivity and community-building, regardless of who the viewer is,” Coleman said.

The crew is looking to raise more than $28,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to finish up the film, which they hope to debut in the spring.

For more information on “White Knuckle,” visit the campaign page here.