The first horror movie I ever saw in theaters was The Ring 2. It was 8th grade, and I had never exactly been into the idea of willfully tearing my nerves out over a film, but a bunch of friends were going and peer pressure hit its shot. I went into the film; I got a little spooked; and I walked out of the film with the same thoughts and wants and needs as I did before. It didn’t mean much to my 8th grade brain, and I doubt it would now, because The Ring 2 is a trashcan film existing to be paid for and forgotten. It was a cash grab franchise builder shoddily built over a decent predecessor, and it frankly set a bed taste in my mouth for a long time for the horror genre.
Luckily in a current wave of never ending mainstream trashcan horror, some directors are paddling upstream to continue the work of the genre’s masters to find transcendent horror that means a whole lot. Great horror films aren’t scary because of jump scares and cello trembles. Great horror utilizes our nerves to exacerbate the problems of the world around us, and uses the audience’s senses to drive that message to the bone, and Get Out is a piece of transcendent upstream horror.
Set in the forests of upstate New York (the non-New York City part), Get Out follows a young interracial couple on their first trip to visit the Caucasian girlfriend’s family at their huge manor in the middle of the eerily non-descript woods of the Empire State. After the awkward first meeting, the couple learns that the estate will be hosting their annual summer party comprised of even more white people, and the nearly lone young black man finds himself under a microscope of white curiosity that he couldn’t have imagined. About four hours into the party, he starts to understand that the revelry is derived straight out of hell and that he really really needs to…get out, and the rest of the film is just a bloody crescendo to the problems raised in the film to this point.
Get Out is obviously entirely centered on race relations in America examining the concepts of white privilege and racial curiosity head on. The film is so effectively evocative because director Jordan Peele takes his precious time setting it all up. Other than a few early bits poking fun at the genre itself, Get Out takes a good while to get truly scary at all. However, the subtle mannerisms around the family’s first meetings out on the patio and in the dining room in the first act do an incredible job establishing a foundation destined to fall apart. These conversations latch in deep to awkward first encounters between people trying to connect with those different from him or herself, and those awkward efforts to “be cool” are completely sinister in hindsight.
It’s frankly a hard film for white people to swallow because it shoves the problem of cultural appropriation and the complete lack of equal cohabitation into their face before they can see it coming. Alas, after the credits role, everyone’s brain fires in a thousand directions piecing together connections between the film and the reality outside the theater with ease you can’t get away from, and ideally makes you a more complete person because of it. Get Out is a remarkably effective film at cultivating stimulating conversation over issues of treating all people equally and it’s essential viewing for both the time we all exist in and come from.
The Ring 2 is a forgettable trash can film. Get Out is the opposite.