Writer, comedian and now director, Jordan Peele, shifted the genre of horror and pop culture as a whole for his directorial debut. While creating a horror sub-genre he also catered to a fan base that isn’t typically represented in horror films, unless they are subsequently dying first: the black guy. This type of horror faces no aliens, serial killers, or exorcisms. It rather faces something that is very real and is faced everyday; the social monster of racism.
The basic plot follows a black man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who is going to his white girlfriend (Allison Williams), Rose’s parents house for the weekend. After some awkward first impression and racial banter, a band of strange black help tip off the protagonist that something isn’t quite right. Then, after a series of some of the most genre-flipping action sequences and two plot twists back to back, Chris ends the story safe and sound. With this well written script and progression of story, the overall motifs and social culture of the film is what really stands out.
This is both a timely and timeless film. The social aspect being set in a horror slash thriller is the perfect angle. Along with the genre being both specific and new, the type of racism discussed isn’t your typical white hoods and Jim Crow. It’s a subtle racism that is executed through the use of micro aggression. This is not to say that this film is about stating that all white people are racist. The family in the film all mean well and are meaningful people. The recognize the difference in culture and try to throw everything “black” at Chris whether they be stereotypical or not in order to make him feel more comfortable.
The next big motif serves as the centerpiece of conflict through the whole film. The tea hypnosis and the sunken place. The mother in the film Missy (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist and offers to help him with his smoking problem through hypnosis. Once he is hypnotized he enters into a space called “The Sunken Place.” It makes the hypnotized absent from their conscious mind and only present in the deepest part of the subconscious. At first it seems like it’s all fine until you realize what this purpose serves.
The next one is the auction and what the highest bidder gets. During a picnic scene, Chris is being auctioned off bingo style to the guests. They are not bidding for his body but more for his skill set. Chris is a talented photographer and a blind art dealer wants his gift of creative sight. This represents one, a modern take on slavery, and two the relationship between democrats elites and the black vote.
In this very partisan realm of politics, not only based on your values and platforms, but also on your socioeconomic status can determine where you align on the political spectrum. Usually the wealthier and more European you are you tend to align on the conservative spectrum. The poorer and browner you are you’ll tend to be on the liberal spectrum. Democrats have long history of banking off of the black vote without really advocating for their political interest post the Civil Rights Movement. Also it’s parallel with cultural appropriation. Taking things from others, portraying them like they are new and profiting heavily from them.
The last one that stuck out to me the most is the ending. Chris had just gone through one of the most valiant efforts to escape that house. For all of the video game nerds out there, imagine fighting through multiple boss stages only to have a sliver of life left at the end. This was one of the most clenching scenes in the film. After escaping it came down to a heavily wounded Rose and him in the middle of the street. He lifts his head up and sees a cop car pulling up on them.
Most of the audience let out one of the biggest sighs of disbelief. Why? Because we have all been there. Even though he went through hell and back and his life was at risk multiple times, it all wouldn’t have mattered. At the end of the day all that is to be seen is a wounded white girl and a black guy. Luckily this troupe was turned on its head. It was his friend that serves as the comic relief and voice of reason that comes to save him.
This is one of the most brilliant pieces of cinema ever, in my opinion. It’s smart, it knows what it wants to do, and most importantly it is a movie for everyone. The film takes place from the perspective of Chris. So, whether black or not the viewer experiences the world as Chris does. Peele plans on making more social thrillers and social monster movies. I’m excited to see what the next topic he decides to tackle is going to be.
My Rating: 5/5