But for my money, the boldest and most powerful treatment of these issues is in exploitation movies — notably the horror/action Purge series. And now we have Get Out, a superb horror film (one of the best of the year) and an incredibly dark and sophisticated comedy.
Essentially Get Out tells the story of what happens when talented young African American photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) agrees to accompany his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) on a weekend visit to her parents. Chris's best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) forecasts that no good can come of this... and, my word, is he right.
The combination of sophisticated (non-supernatural) horror and black comedy here is reminiscent of another recent film — A Cure for Wellness. And both pictures are similar in that they share a definite kind of Roman Polanski vibe. But while A Cure for Wellness was effective and impressive in its oddball way, Get Out is hugely superior. It was made on a vastly lower budget, and it really has something to say.
The writer and director of Get Out is Jordan Peele. This is his directing debut, but he previously worked on the script of Keanu, a movie which I will have to see now — not least because it's about a kitten.
Peele does an absolutely masterful job of manipulating our expectations in Get Out. The movie is often hilariously funny. But it is also deeply disturbing and very suspenseful. And it makes amazing use of small, telling moments to generate enormous drama and fear, as when Chris discovers a box of photographs.
The picture loses the plot a bit at the end when it veers into total science fiction mode. But the final cathartic burst of violence is very satisfying.The use of music is brilliant, and mention must be made of an outstanding performance by Bradley Whitford as Rose's dad.
If you enjoy horror or suspense films at all — or you're intrigued to see a savage dissertation on race in contemporary America, don't miss Get Out.
(Image credits: All the posters are from Imp Awards.)