An interesting conversation I like to have with my friends is about horror films. Specifically, I like to ask if anyone can name a good horror film released in the 21st century. Since the heyday of horror films with ‘video nasties’ in the 80s, there’s been a slowly decreasing number of quality horror films before the complete drought since the turn of the millennium. The same few names get brought up but quickly dismissed – Shaun of the Dead is more of a comedy than a horror, 28 Days Later is great but I’ve always had trouble associating zombie films with horror (no one says The Walking Dead is a horror TV series, do they), 10 Cloverfield Lane is a thriller with horror elements, Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantasy rather than a horror, Paranormal Activity was a disappointment, Saw is overrated. Indeed, if you look at any list of the best horror films you’re exceedingly unlikely to find any from recent times in there – the likes of Psycho (1960), Alien (1979), Carrie (1976) and The Shining (1980) are all talked about way more than even the most beloved of recent horror films.
And then, along comes Jordan Peele. In his directorial debut, he takes the horror genre and flips it, creating something new, and creating something the genre desperately, desperately needed. Gone are the narrative tropes of monsters, demons and other worldly spooks, replaced by normal, suburban people. That’s the genius of Get Out – it takes a situation so mundane, so boring, so ordinary, and manages to turn it in to a horror work of genius.
The story revolves around Chris, a black photographer who’s going with his white girlfriend Rose to meet her parents. Immediately as they arrive it’s clear that something is wrong with Rose’s parents black housekeepers. What follows is a story with hypnosis, with betrayal, with genuine scares. And it does all this in a grounded scenario. That’s what is truly scary about Get Out – it’s actually plausible.
The closest comparison I could make for Get Out would be the TV series Black Mirror, in the way it takes everyday life and pushes it to its logical conclusion. Get Out’s themes of the experiences of black people in the United States in 2017 is so well done, so cleverly realised, and to turn it in to a horror film that is simultaneously scary and thought provoking is a truly remarkable achievement. There were no truly good horror films in the 21st century. Until now.
Picture credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/doutorterror/