A few things are abundantly clear from the title of this piece. #1- Subtlety is not my strong suit, #2- I am a neophyte in the realm of film review, and #3- I really dug this movie. Although I am a neophyte film critic, I am a certified cinephile so I have some insights that go a little bit beyond “That shit was DOPE!” which is what you will surely hear from any of your friends that have already gone to see this movie. It is exciting, surprising, well-constructed and scary as fuck. There is no point in putting that nicely.
The element of surprise is used exceedingly well in this movie because right off the bat you are taken aback that the writer and director is none other than Jordan Peele- one half of the internet sensation comic-duo Key & Peele. The guy and his partner are funny as hell and so it is a surprise that his first self-driven film project is this dark and terrifying psychological/horror/science fiction thriller. In unwinding his amazing tale of a black young man lured into a bizarre world of modern racial subjugation by his new white girlfriend, Jordan plays on all of the (sometimes) unspoken fears that many black people have repressed about our white friends and neighbors for years. The sense that they all know something that we don’t know- and that they won’t let us in on the crucial secrets hidden in clues all around us shows up from time to time in black folks’ minds who happen to live or work primarily with white folks. We learn to laugh it off and joke about our own paranoia, but Jordan seizes that subconscious fear with great affect right from the start of the movie. Clearly, as a writer and director Jordan has a firm grip on the Alfred Hitchcock and Twilight Zone genre and had no trouble repurposing it for today’s audience. Despite the fact that we knew what was coming, he kept us feeling off-balance and surprised throughout the development of the tension.
What most impressed me was that he was able to tell a horror story that played with the history of racial subjugation and the durable concept of the commoditization of black bodies by white people. By remixing the framework of an “invasion of the body snatchers” tale, Jordan scared the shit out of the audience by making it wonder what it would be like to be completely subject to the whim and will of others based purely on racial identity. In effect, the audience had to ask itself what would it be like to be a slave? And because of the genius marketing of this film, the theater that I sat in was both full and overwhelmingly white and young. Now THAT is how you use art to spark a constructive conversation on race. Well played, Mr. Peele.
The imagery of our main character chained up in a basement after being hyptnotized into submission was a highly effective plot device. As he regained consciousness and began to realize his plight and began struggling to break free of his bondage we knew that we were looking at the horror of the middle passage playing out in a 21st century setting. Although I am a rookie at film review, I am well aware that going much further will trigger an obligation to give you the “Spoiler Alert” warning. But that won’t be necessary because I am wrapping it up. But this warning is very necessary: if you read this review and don’t go and support this brother’s ingenious film I am going to find you and introduce you to that cute white chick in the movie that lured our protagonist into hell. And unlike our hero, you will have it coming. So save us both the trouble and go check this movie out first chance you get. We desperately need more films like this to succeed. Because I don’t know about you, but these remakes are getting on my fucking nerves. And “R” rated horror films need to make a serious comeback. Just ask the chick below what she thinks….