DISCLAIMER: IF YOU CANNOT HANDLE THE USAGE OF THE 'N-WORD', GO BACK TO LOOKING AT MY PHOTOS. I WON'T BE UPSET. I PROMISE.
NIGGA. Let me preface this whole thing by saying that "horror" films don't normally frighten me. In the most non-brovado (I'm extremely susceptible to being childishly frightened at any given moment) way, typical horror films have such a strong element of "nigga this ain't real" that in my mind it immediately becomes a comedy. It's just something to laugh at when the nervous chick just so happens to trip over the randomly placed twig and gets caught and dies. Or knowing who's gonna die next by which dummy leaves the large group to go "check out what that noise was". To back that claim, most if not all horror films are starring white people and have the most painstakingly predictable storylines. "Rich-white-family-buys-a-mansion-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-and-finds-out-that-it's-haunted-from-the-stuff-the-kids-find-in-the-attic-and-they-decide-to-stay-anyway". Or the infamous "camping-trip-at-the-sketchiest-log-cabin-EVER-with-a-bunch-of-other-white-people" plot that gets run into the ground and goes straight to Netflix. These things never felt real to me because if you asked me to go visit the random mansion or go on the camping trip, the answer is automatically "bruh...."(no for those who don't get it). I would never see myself in those positions so I never felt fear. I'm the guy who laughs at and predicts stuff going on in the movie just to relieve the group of people I'm with from the "horror" they see before them.
This film though. It felt as real as I could have ever imagined.
First, the opening scene is something I know all too well. Walking through a white neighborhood and knowing that at any moment someone could pull up to me and start some trouble just because of the color of my skin. That's a reality that when put on a screen can bring a relatable sense of fear that outweighs any fictional character wielding a chainsaw in Texas. This movie was the combination of my very realistic worst nightmares and all the realities that I face on a daily basis. That inevitably makes for the best horror film.
Shoutout to Jordan Peele for making "Redbone" by Donald Glover the first song in the film.
First songs/scores are important to me in films. They set a particular tone for the rest of the movie, and when used strategically within the frame of the film, can have a massive impact. The same way Tarell Alvin McCraney sent a message of inclusiveness and love with Boris Gardiner's song "Every Nigger is a Star" on Moonlight, Peele masterfully placed Glover's message (STAY WOKE) at the forefront of the movie to give the viewer a hint of what was to come. I remember how happy I was to hear the song that saved my life being played at the beginning of Moonlight. To see that Peele paid homage to one of my generation's musical/cultural innovators brought that same feeling of joy.
Without giving too much away I will say this.
THIS MOVIE IS NOT MADE FOR WHITE PEOPLE.
The setting in which I saw the film played an unbelievable role in my reaction to the film itself and I'll explain why. A group of friends and I went to see this film in Hollywood, a place famously known for boujee white niggas and tourists. Now. As the first REAL black horror movie some of the subject matter brought a level of seriousness over the audience that experienced the film at the same time that I did. Some moments where there was zero room for laughter were at times the "funniest things" to the white audience members surrounding us. The biggest point that even Jordan Peele makes is that the satire in this film is based on truth and those truths are not funny at all. You can imagine how I could have been uncomfortable even just a lil' bit. I felt choked at times and only legitimately laughed once the entire film despite there being several "comedic reliefs" throughout the film. I heard an opinion that the laughter may have come from "white guilt" and I do understand that in a public setting one may laugh when they know it's wrong out of sheer nervousness. I get that. I just saw laughter throughout which added to my increasingly intense shaking from start to finish. Nigga...you should have seen my hands afterwards. This film along with other pieces of art like "A Seat at the Table", "Moonlight", "Lemonade", "To Pimp a Butterfly", amongst many others just aren't for white people. It was kinda weird hearing white men behind me rate the movie immediately and "wish it were funnier" only further confirming the horror that the main character played by Daniel Kaluuya faced was real. It's weird to me because I appreciate all the acclaim this film is receiving, but am skeptical of who reviewed a film such as this for highly touted reviewing sites such as Rotten Tomatoes. I envision a scenario where there's a white person who views the film and gives it a perfect score out of guilt or out of 'wokeness'. I sincerely hope it's the latter. Even if the rating was given out of guilt, it makes sense why. As a Black man who was scared down to his bones and understands all the not-so-subtle nuances of this film, there's no way I could rate this film anywhere below 100%. Peele himself in a panel interview with Build, mentions his goal to have Black people ready to leave their seats in fear of the movie's plot being real. For a white person (or any non-Black person to keep it 1000) who doesn't know much about the struggle in any capacity, it's almost obligatory to give high praise because of the way the film is structured and perfectly executed. The fact that there are niggas out there claiming that this film is 'Anti-White' proves my point exactly. Those niggas just ain't woke yet.
I am a photographer (I hope you figured that out). I am a Black man (hope ya picked up on that one too). I used to play lacrosse (that one you might not have known). All of these elements tie into the movie that made my experience in particular terrifying. The moment in the movie when the blind gallery owner tells Chris that he wanted his 'photographic eye' and was willing to literally take his body and mind for his unique perspective that only him as a black man could possess had me ready to check out. I was SHOOK (scared). I saw myself in that moment and almost cried. And Daniel Kaluuya's character Chris had some FIREEEEEEEEE photos at the beginning of the movie too.
I firmly believe this movie is winning every award it gets nominated for. As his breakout film, Jordan Peele set the bar tremendously high but did it in a way that challenges filmmakers and artists that care anything about the Black experience and bringing their perspective to life pay more attention and put more into their work. This film not only instantly challenged my already long-thought-out purpose as an artist, but also motivated me to create on a deeper level once I figure out what my purpose truly is. I'm curious to see who gets impacted by this film and decides to create the next work of art that exemplifies the brilliance of men and women with Black and Brown skin. 2016 was a great year of inspiration, and with what's going on in our country and masterpieces like "Get Out", I'm sure the next groundbreaker isn't too far away. Stay Woke.
A couple things to think of before/after you go see this film:
- Go see it in a safe environment. Woke Folk Only.
- Don't go drunk/high unless you've got experience viewing horror films in that condition.
- Try and have an intelligent conversation with someone of color (Black friends especially) about how it impacted you/them and how you can contribute to making those real horrors fiction.
- SUPPORT THE WORKS OF OTHER GENIUSES THAT BRING THINGS LIKE RACE, SEXUALITY, DEPRESSION, ETC. TO LIFE IN THE FUTURE!