BY ALEX SHEDD
High-quality horror movies are hard to find in cinemas these days. From the fifteenth spinoff of a sequel of some “Blair Witch Project” ripoff to this month’s gory jump-scare, the horror genre has left something to be desired artistically and intellectually for many years now.
True horror comes from the psyche, not the body. Audiences don’t want to see a horror movie to throw up, they want to see a horror movie to be terrified, not just because a CGI monster might jump out of a closet for a second.
The horror genre was created to prey on the real fears haunting the cultures and minds of all people. “Frankenstein” was a commentary on the unknown implications of scientific advancement. “Night of the Living Dead” was a poignant message to the racially biased in the late 1960s. “Psycho” was about letting go of personal histories. Although some contemporary horror films still manage to achieve meaningful commentary, those gems are few and far between.
True horror is scary because it breaks the mold and is not afraid to push cultural boundaries. True horror feels frightening in its authenticity, and new, yet starkly familiar, in its sadistic glee.
When I heard that Jordan Peele (of “Key & Peele” comedic fame) was making a horror flick, I was skeptical. I love his comedy work, but such a genre flip seemed questionable to me. Then the reviews for his movie, “Get Out,” started coming in.
I am always interested when a horror movie gets good reviews, and I found that many people were recommending that I see this movie; even critics loved it. Peter Debruge of Variety called it “potent” and “fearless.” Roger Moore of Movie Nation called it “the smartest horror movie in ages.” “Get Out” did not fail to deliver.
Peele, it turns out, is not only a brilliant comedian, but a masterful storyteller. Every throwaway line, odd shot and plot device comes back and means something by the end of the film. The scares are psychological in nature and give the audience a feeling of suspense and dread, while speaking eloquently of race relations in 2017 America.
Peele perfectly blends a terrifying story with clever and effective social commentary and a large dose of the intelligent satire he is known for, all while staying tasteful. The cinematography is artful but not jarring. The performances are subtle and not campy. Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, and Dean, played by Bradley Whitford, have fantastic stage chemistry. The story is engaging, philosophical, scary and, above all, highly entertaining.
(The following portion of the article may contain spoilers)
“Get Out” is riddled with scares and symbolism. It tells the tale of a young African-American man, Chris, visiting the parents of his caucasian girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), for the first time, but he quickly finds out that something went horribly awry. Very soon, Chris realizes that the awkward, try-hard dialogue of his girlfriend’s wealthy father (Bradley Whitford) contains much more than it seems, and he begins to uncover a mind-blowing and increasingly terrifying plot that stems out of what originally appeared to be a case of casual but inadvertent racism.
Chris, representing the perspective of many African-Americans today, initially brushes off the subtly racist dialogue of his host that seems to be ever-present in a great number of well-meaning caucasian people across the country. But soon, he finds himself quite literally trapped, surrounded by it, and falling deeper into its implications, into a psychological prison that Rose’s hypnotist mother (Catherine Keener) calls “the sunken place.” “Get Out” is not only scary; it is creepy and slow-burning, all while being shocking and intellectually stimulating. It will make you laugh, it will make you hang on the edge of your seat, and it will make you close your eyes in fear as you witness Chris’ nightmare.
True horror sticks with you. It makes you think about yourself, the people around you, and the society you live in. It makes you see yourself in a helpless protagonist, or in a seemingly innocent villain. It makes you see your country in a harmless-turned-sinister upper-class home.
True horror stands the test of time, and remains meaningful for generations to come. “Get Out” is true horror. Theaters will do special screenings of it for a hundred years. Critics will use it as a new standard, and film students will talk about what it really means. Any filmmaker worth their mettle will say that a good film has to make people have conversations.