I know, I know. I’m late with my Get Out thinkpiece, but to be fair, it was released later here in the UK, and also this isn’t so much a Get Out thinkpiece, as a plea for the real world to stop treating horror movies as the annoying little sibling who doesn’t deserve to sit at the grown up table. Let us begin.
I thought Get Out was phenomenal (please don’t ask me how many times I had to type that word to get rid of the dreaded red line, I am not the best speller..), and one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in 2017 so far. Daniel Kaluuya has always been an actor I’ve enjoyed watching, since I first saw him on BBC’s eclectic horror comedy series, Psychoville. He continued to impress over the years, and really gave a stellar showing in Get Out, as the hero, Chris. The writing was clever and engaging, and the entire film was a blood soaked joy to watch, which is exactly what I want in a horror film.
As a child of an interracial relationship, and a participant in a few (well, considering I’m literally a mixture of two races, I think, biologically speaking, any relationship I have will be interracial, but I’m being pedantic), I am well aware of not only how great they can be, but also the sobering difficulties that interracial couples can face, outside of their own loved up bubble. It isn’t just obvious prejudice, but subtle “well meaning” issues. Of course, someone threatening to burn your house down, or kill you for being in a relationship outside of your race is noticeable, but there are acts of prejudice that will sometimes fly under the radar, and this film expertly and fearlessly exposes racist microagressions and opens up discussion of the full scope of racism, including the well meaning allies who still, however accidental play a part in racism, and of course, the “I’m not racist, but…” crowd.
It achieves this without being patronising to those who may want to help break down barriers and use their privilege to help people, in a way that The Green Inferno, Eli Roth’s cannibal holocaust edge lord, try hard rip off tribute attempted to do, but didn’t quite manage. The message was much clearer, didn’t sound condescending, and the conspiracy theories were at least well explained, related to the topic at hand and not just yelled out by a caged hipster. That makes a lot more sense if you’ve seen The Green Inferno, and if you have a few hours to spare, it’s on amazon prime, and while a bit crap, it’s kind of a laugh, even if it’s just for how seriously it takes itself.
Get Out is by no means the first horror movie to confront real world issues, but it’s massive success has opened up potential new viewers to all the great things horror as a genre has to offer, including but not limited to “woke” horror (and by that I don’t mean Nightmare On Elm Street), and sent a clear message to the bigger studios that not only is horror worth investing in outside of October releases, but that mindless horror isn’t the only profitable option.
Horror is, in my opinion a great genre to explore and discuss the harsh realities of life, because is there really any more realistic a picture of humanity than one of humanity in peril? The truth of who we are and why we are that way is easily exposed under the threat of death, whether it’s from zombies, ghosts, cannibals, or your unfriendly neighbourhood racist.
Zombie movies, as overexposed as they might have been in recent years are a great example of privilege in action. Working class people are normally the first victims in the apocalypse, because, well, they’re at work, surrounded by people, some of which may be zombies, and they don’t have helicopters, huge cars or boats to get away from the carnage. I can tell you right now, the second Z Day comes, I will be one of the first to go. I don’t drive, I don’t have a cool method of escape, and it takes me at least two hours of commuting on public transport to get home of an evening. I’ll be eaten before I make it past Bluewater. Meanwhile, those richer than me will have better means of escaping. Whether they’ll be anything left to escape to at the end of the day is anyone’s guess, but they’ll have a better chance than me. Is this fair? No. Is it the way life currently is for me? Yes.
This is of course reminiscent of real life natural disasters, in which money can go a long way to preserving your safety, while the underprivileged don’t have the resources to have safeguards in place, or any way to help themselves when disaster strikes. While zombies might be a fantasy, the fact that in a crisis, large parts of the world’s population will be fucked over because they are from a lower economical standing and don’t have access to things that will help them is not.
The recent debate over women’s rights to their own bodies has also been covered numerous times in horror. Classic film Rosemary’s Baby is a harrowing look at the lack of autonomy women hold over their bodies. Not only is Rosemary sexually assaulted by a demon, her husband casually lies and states that he had sex with her when she was unconscious, to cover the fact that she was sexually assaulted by a demonic presence. During her pregnancy, her concerns are silenced and she is eventually forced to mother the Antichrist.
While I’m not aware of cases of women being raped by demons, or forced to carry the Antichrist to full term, I am aware of cases of women being raped in the real world, and having their fears and concerns silenced, I am aware of women in the real world who are denied a choice on carrying a child to full term, and the fact that these realities are not just playing out on a screen, and are, in some sense real, should terrify us, but like many of the characters in Rosemary’s Baby, people will find ways to justify women being treated this way, or will just ignore it.
While many see Saw as a yearly money raising exercise for Lionsgate, the Saw series did contain a hard dose of reality along with it’s gore. There are people who think like John Kramer, and believe they have a right to play God because they are unhappy with people’s attitudes, there are corrupt police officers like Mark Hoffman who will use the power entrusted to them by their communities to commit crimes, and they’ll try and justify them too. There are people like Amanda Young, who are vulnerable, and can form great bonds with those that abuse them, whether it’s the one who enabled her drug habit, or the one who stuck a bear trap on her head and forced her to disembowel a man. These people may never see themselves as abusers, they may see themselves as saving their victim, but the reality is, Amanda Young was a victim of abuse, those that abused her, especially John Kramer insisted that it was her own fault. He insisted that he “fixed” her, he brainwashed her until she believed it. In the real world, this is called victim blaming, and while John suffered for it, many in the real world do not.
I could go on about the horrific but quite realistic aspects of the long and winding Saw saga, but I don’t have all the time in the world, and the fact is, it may have handled some of them in a clumsy manner, but the series confronts many of the world’s injustices, and tells the story of many oppressed people through it’s long and bloody journey.
I’ve barely scratched the surface, and horror is a genre full of excellent commentary on the state of humanity, and what complacency to the issues of your fellow man can bring you, and while it is unfortunate that a lot of it is written off due to the storytelling devices used, it is my hope that in the future, horror will be taken as seriously as other genres, and the messages it contains will be given as much attention as other genres.