GET OUT Is An Oscar Nominee Doing What Horror Does Best
Recently, I saw a comment on Facebook about how Get Out was overrated because it wasn't scary to someone. That particular someone was white, though, and I explained to him that although it might not be scary to him, to try and look at it from the point of view of a person of color, especially someone who is black. The idea of being auctioned off, owned, treated as a mere body and not a mind or even a human being with your own faculty, feeling a lack of control in society - these were realities for blacks in America not too long ago, and, unfortunately, some of these continue to this day. That's pretty scary, in my opinion.
I think Jordan Peele made a brilliant statement about the horrors of racism and the recent resurgence of its' visibility. I was beyond thrilled to see it received 4 Oscar nods, including 2 for Peele (director and original screenplay), one for Daniel Kaluuya for best actor, and, perhaps most importantly, a best picture nod. The only one missing for me was a nomination for supporting actress for Betty Gabriel as Georgina, whose performance as the maid gave me chills, especially in one particular scene, in which she cries while smiling and displays such conflicted emotions behind her eyes that she, while saying something quite different with her voice, still practically screams, "Leave this place, now!" It is chilling and amazing and I hope it earns her more work.
Some have argued that Get Out is not horror, and I don't quite agree. The idea of being trapped inside your mind while someone else controls your body is horrific enough. But the film made such a statement by not trying at all to be subtle about the horrors of racism, instead saying, pretty loudly, "hey, white people, this is why we carry fear." It's important to note that while, for those who have never experienced systemic racism, it might not be as scary, for black people in our current political climate, it's a simply terrifying allegory for the experience of both their ancestors and themselves.
I'd also like to give Peele a tremendous amount of credit for the way he built tension throughout the film, at first slowly and always creepily giving away the fact that something just isn't quite right, then ramping things up until you are absolutely perched on the edge of your seat, waiting for the violence to begin. He also definitely used his actors to their best effect. I've seen the alternate ending, and while I almost think it could have made a greater impact, I was also relieved to see it end the way it did. I have talked to many black people who said they felt real terror to see police lights pull up at the end, but cheered when it wasn't quite what it seemed. I know I sure breathed a huge sigh of relief myself after a film so full of suspense and anxiety.
It's also great to see what I feel to be a horror film nominated in several categories. I should also mention here The Shape of Water. Although many don't see it as horror, is at least a creature/monster movie, and also happens to speak to the often terrible treatment of those we see as lesser beings, the "different," and the outcasts. It got 13 nominations, so, not too shabby. Horror has long been seen as a lesser genre but I think that if we continue to see horror movies like this, with clever writing, good direction, and especially reflections on so many of the fears that lots of us have about modern day society, (which is something horror has always done well), we will also continue to see the kind of critical acclaim we saw with The Shape of Water and Get Out. I truly applaud both these films for being willing to discuss difficult topics in such sincere and amazing ways and for continuing to advance and elevate the horror genre for more viewers. Bravo.