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Gentrifiers Get Murdered in 'White Knuckle,' a Horror Short Film

The homespun film seeks to bring awareness to gentrification, murder-mystery style.

Taylor Lindsay

Still from White Knuckle, courtesy of Connor Lawson (DP) & Xavier Coleman (Writer/Director). Images courtesy of the artists

Three young adults move into a gentrifying neighborhood; meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose, targeting gentrifiers. Such is the premise of White Knuckle, a horror short film that begins when students, artists, and other hipsters are mysteriously murdered and maimed by a mysterious, well, anti-gentrifier. Because while the project is made to be a bloody Brooklyn-based scare, it’s also trying to call attention a growing issue in urban communities.

Writer/director/editor Xavier Coleman aims to highlight a tangible, less slasher-y horror: the plight that emerges when an urban neighborhood lacks community and displacement occurs. “I moved from Greenpoint to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn a few years ago,” Coleman tells The Creators Project. “I noticed a lot of changes from the historical idea of what I’d learned Bed-Stuy had once been. Gentrification has become a buzzword lately, but I wanted to really explore it in an original way, particularly from my own perspective as a gentrifier of color.”

The suspense is meta: the project’s Kickstarter campaign ends November 23rd, with the team currently a little over halfway to their goal. In these final days, the filmmaking crew is offering to feature any donating Brooklyn business as a sponsor. Plus, kind of like a good-cause “we’ll-match-it” deal, the crew members will work one hour of community service for various Brooklyn neighborhoods per every person who pledges funds via the platform.

Still from “White Knuckle,” courtesy of Connor Lawson (DP) & Xavier Coleman (Writer/Director)

Set in a Brooklyn brownstone, the narrative follows the trio of 20-somethings as they attempt to solve the whodunit; while they’re not budding young venture capitalists or another targeted type, they still might be the killer’s next victims. Their dialogue is key to the film’s purpose. As White Knuckle’s Kickstarter page puts it: “As the main characters debate the identity of the killer, broader questions are raised about the importance of cultural identity for American minorities. As they discuss what constitutes a psychopath, the notion of inner-city Black and brown pathology is challenged. And as the characters face the threat of murder, the parallel reality of a community and culture which is facing its own demise from gentrification becomes apparent.” “We think we can get people talking about these issues,” producer Miranda Kahn tells us, “and make a space for more salient discussion about the implications of gentrification.”

Behind the scenes on the set of “White Knuckle.” Photo by Casey Regan

It’s a high bar for a short thriller, targeted at an audience who may not be sure how to think about their own neighborhood’s diversity deficit. Speaking of, the filmmaking team itself consists of mostly women and people of color, two underrepresented groups in the film industry. More specifically, they’re looking to infuse the horror genre with these two demographics.”Now is a great time to do this,” Coleman tells us. The project is bringing diversity to an often single-shade genre and speaking to city (and nation) wide unity, during a season where the need for both is palpable.

Behind the scenes on the set of “White Knuckle.” Photo by Casey Regan

Behind the scenes on the set of White Knuckle. Photo by Casey Regan.

“One of the things White Knuckle touches upon,” Coleman continues, “is that while gentrification is occurring and things are becoming more homogenous, there’s a cultural displacement happening. So what can we do to maintain a regard for everybody’s perspective, and ultimately their respect and dignity?”

Still from “White Knuckle,” courtesy of Connor Lawson (DP) & Xavier Coleman (Writer/Director)

Behind the scenes on the set of “White Knuckle.” Photo by Casey Regan

If they reach their funding goal, you’ll be able to see the short in 2017. Donate on the White Knuckle Kickstarter page, and visit the film’s website here.

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