With his remarkable feature film debut, Get Out, writer-producer-director Jordan Peele struck a nerve and captured the cultural zeitgeist. Many horror fans were in awe of the achievement and felt vindicated that a horror movie received such critical and commercial success. We wanted to see what he would do next—what message would he send: political, social, cultural, or a mix of all three? How would he deliver this message? What fucked up, masterfully directed story would he unravel?
Most of all, we
wanted Peele to get crazy, so he got crazy.
At its core, film entertainment should appeal to a wide array of people. Everyone loves a good story, even if that story originates from a time, place, or culture very different from one’s own. If the plot is compelling and the characters engaging, we can find just enough of ourselves in the narrative to feel a connection.
Too many audiences,
however, find themselves excluded from these narratives, or worse, included as
degrading stereotypes or bland caricatures. Representation matters, especially
when one kind of audience is continually and persistently asked to empathize
with characters who exist in a world in which a large portion of the audience
does not exist. Or if they do exist, it’s as nothing more than condescending,
perhaps even harmful stereotypes.
These shallow portrayals are the chief focuses of Horror Noire, the groundbreaking documentary, based on the collection of essays by Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman. Directed by Xavier Burgin, the documentary illuminates the historical depictions of black people in American horror movies. In exploring the representations of black people in horror, Horror Noire holds a mirror up to how societal attitudes towards black people shaped their appearances (if any) in horror movies and vice versa.
*Very Mild Spoilers for Get Out*
Every once in a while, a horror movie comes along that checks off all my horror-movie boxes. Such a movie strikes a balance between horror and comedy, between jump scares and mounting dread, between imagination and classic genre fare, between a stand-alone story and an important social message.
Every once in a while, a horror movie comes along that knocks me back. Holds me in my seat. Grabs me by the throat.
Get Out is the most recent example of such excellent filmmaking. By now you’ve surely heard that the film has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 167 total reviews and an 83% “Universal Acclaim” rating on Metacritic. You might also have read that Get Out is a certified box office smash, grossing $111 million dollars worldwide against a budget of $4.5 million, which is 24x over its budget.
Get Out deserves every good review and every penny it earns. Movies like this make me proud to be a horror fan because they prove how the genre is positioned as uniquely challenging and entertaining art. From its technical execution, to its writing, to its casting, to its deeply relevant social criticism, Get Out will probably be one of the best movies of the year and will undoubtedly be one of the best horror movies of the decade.