Jordan Peele's Get Out has opened up in theaters this weekend. Currently, as of today, at 136 reviews and still high at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, a HUGE rarity, Get Out has already exceeded expectations, grossing over $30.5 million against a $4.5 million budget. The plot of Get Out follows a young Black man, Chris, who goes to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose, in what most of us would call the middle of nowhere, a huge house surrounded by nothing but trees and deer. The next house is way down across the lake. Concerned that Rose's parents may be surprised of their daughter dating a man of his skin color, Chris and Rose get on the road, meet Rose's family and help (who all end up being creepy Black people) and the film gets completely eerie and unhinged as we watch Chris' concerns turn into paranoia and fright, with a ton of uncomfortable situations that many Black people in America find themselves encountering. We, the Black audience, shake our heads and laugh at these uncomfortable moments as we have mostly grown up with them: the constant opinions we have about Obama; being compared to Tiger Woods and other Black athletes; being touched and asked if it's true what they say about Black guys... Get Out is an exceptionally well made, solid movie. Fans of old school horror films will appreciate this slow burn of a churn until it finally erupts, and many people will find themselves being highly uncomfortable and will be disturbed watching this while entertained at the same time... when was the last time a good solid horror film did that to you? Remember how Jaws made people uncomfortable of getting into the water? Based on hearing conversations of audiences walking out the theater, this film seem to do the same concerning... other matters. (Side note: This film should have been released on Valentine's Day for the hilarity of it)
It felt great seeing common Black experiences being used in a genre film such as this; it felt great seeing Black people trying to help each other out of these horrific situations; it was great seeing topnotch filmmaking techniques and camera movements and special effects in a "Black" film; it was great seeing the lead be an intelligent man of such dark skin (which I'm sure was intentional) and seeing the various ways the director and light crew lit Daniel Kaluuya Black skin in visually creative ways; and it was also great hearing Childish Gambino's lyrics of Red Bone warning us to "Stay woke; Niggas creepin'; They gon' find you; Gon' catch you sleepin... Now don't you close your eyes..."
I love horror. Horror is my absolute favorite genre. I've been a fan since I was a little kid, my mom introducing me to different horror films and excitedly watching it with me. (Although it's a little weird thinking back of how lenient she was to me watching Freddy Krueger slicing people apart and watching Regan in The Exorcist stab her vagina with a cross talking 'bout "Fuck me! Your mother sucks cocks in Hell" but at the same time covering my eyes when people kissed on screen... Am I the only one this happened to?) I've taken a few classes on horror films when I was a college and nearly everything I do, be it my film work or my writing has a splash of horror element to it. As a fan of old school horror films, going back to the old Black and White days of Val Lewton's RKO films such as Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, Seventh Victim and his hard hitting rivals, Universal Studios, with films such as Frankenstein and the original Mummy to the 60s with films like The Innocents, probably my all time favorite horror film, I get excited when I hear news and reviews of a solidly well made horror film. So imagine my excitement when I go online one morning and I discovered the first trailer to Jordan Peele's Get Out.
Now at first, like many, I didn't quite know if this was a joke... I mean, it's Jordan Peele, but if I know comediennes, I know that underneath the jokes tend to be layers and layers of complexity. And sometimes pain, struggle, and trauma in which comedy is used to mask and form into a sense of release. Comedy and horror are two genres that, while may be polar opposites, they can usually go hand in hand. You have the set up, build up, and it builds and builds and turns until finally... the eruption of the repressed... the punchline, the laughter or the scare. And sometimes, a laughter after the scare.
But enough of the setup above; the main thing I wanted to talk about was my appreciation of this film not only as a fan of horror, but as a Black fan of horror. Now we know all the jokes about the Black guy (or girl) always being the first to die, a trope that pisses me off that we continue to see that in horror and other genre films (Darwin "Mr. I Can't Die Because I Adapt to Survive but I'm Not Powerful Enough to Avoid this Problematic Ass Trope Because I Need to Give These White Saviors a Reason and Motivation to Fight" from X-Men: First Class). Often if we're not going to die first in horror, we're going to be the token Black character in the group of 4-8 other white folks and we're gonna die anyway (few rare occasions do we survive), OR our Black spirituality and beliefs will be used as the source of horror, ex: Vodou (or Hollywood Voodoo/Black Magic).
Black folk aren't use to being the leads of a mainstream horror film, or genre film with a predominantly Black cast. If we do get one, it's never of the same type of quality nor given the same type of care or budget as a lot of the other genre films of white creators and cast members. When we do get a genre show with a Black lead and predominately black cast, we're greeted with comments and pissed off audience members asking, "Where are the white people? This is racist." Example: the angry fanboys when Luke Cage blew up on Netflix or on my social media when the head shots of the cast of Black Panther was put together and prompt a huge back and forth about racism and "unfair double standard" representation. Oh, of course, Get Out is already dealing with the same type of white tears, being called "anti-white" and "racist."
Really, it is only now that we're starting to see legitimate well made genre products with a Black lead and supporting cast when it comes to movies and TV shows. For years, growing up, it always annoyed me to see that the only time Black folks could be shown together or get a movie out was if it were films that took place in the hood and was about gangs, drug dealings or violence; or Black romantic films; those usually sappy feel good (comedic) family movies; the white savior coming to the hood to educate us or give us a better future; or of course: the Slave films that always make the white folks give us an award. Now, I ain't knocking those films - a lot of them are fantastic, the Best Man franchise being a huge favorite of mine; old school John Singleton doing his thing; and I did find 12 Years a Slave do be very well made. But why was it always so difficult to get a damn horror film, or a sci fi film, or fantasy film with a Black cast? It can't be that we aren't creative or imaginative enough to think outside the box, especially when you have works from writers like Octavia Butler, Milton Davis, John Jennings out there. Or is it that high budget film production companies really don't think we have the mental capacity to create genre films? There's a reason why films like Attack the Block or the first Blade movie is so beloved by a large Black audience. Films with solid stories, cast, technical qualities, etc. And why, despite being heavily disappointed, After Earth holds a bit of appreciation from me because it's one of the only Sci-fi films that focuses on a Black family (can you name another high budget made Sci-Fi film with a Black family lead?). Now wait! Before y'all start claiming Will Smith films as genre films with a Black lead, how often does he share those genre films with a Black supporting cast or how often are those films directed by a Black director? So y'all can fall back.
Attack The Block
I'm hoping the success of Get Out, critically and most likely financially, will allow these companies to take a chance on these types of films. To Jordan Peele and his crew, if any of you are reading this, thanks for taking the risk and showcasing our potential. There are many Black and other people of color filmmakers out there who are insanely talented in their craft and storytelling. As we've been proving that we aren't a monolith, I'm more than sure that we can prove, and continue to prove, that we have stories to tell outside of the constrained boxes of so-called "urban films."
Yeah, after this writing, lemme pop Blacula up on my screen. I'm in the mood for some horror Blackness!
One of my assignments for a high school class I taught in the past was editing a "Remix/Mash Up" video using different clips from different films. As a horror fan and wanting to see more Black genre films, for my example I used clips from Friday, Boyz n The Hood, and The Craft and made them into one horror film trailer.