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My New Book!

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1, 2018: BlockbusterStudying: Get Out

[Although Black Panther has already busted just about every conceivable block, Memorial Day launches the summer blockbuster season. So this week I wanted to return to some BlockbusterStudying, focusing especially on big hits from last year. Add your BlockbusterStudying thoughts, please!]
On three of the many horror and genre film contexts for Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning game-changing smash hit.
1)      The Stepford Wives (1975): I think it’s fair to say that Bryan Forbes’s suburban sci-fi horror film (based on Ira Levin’s 1972 novel and with a screenplay by the great William Goldman) was one of the most direct influences on Peele’s film. While there are of course plenty of differences (thanks to Peele’s background in comedy, for example, Get Out is far funnier than Stepford, part of the reason why the Golden Globes had a famously hard time pinning down Get Out’s category), the two films share a key goal: turning images of suburban perfection (and really in many ways the American Dream) on their heads, and in the process considering what such images mean for communities of marginalized and oppressed Americans. It’s easy to forget (especially given the terrible 2004 remake) just how ground-breaking Stepford was in that regard; maybe a double-feature with Get Out to remind us?
2)      Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): Adapted from Jack Finney’s 1954 novel The Body Snatchers, Don Siegel’s sci-fi horror film (which has been remade at least three times, but as usual go to the original) depicts an alien invasion where the goal is literally to take over the planet, one snatched human body at a time. The novel and film’s concept of “pod people” seems to me to be an important origin point for (or at least influence on) the distinct body takeovers present in stories like Stepford and Get Out, as well as in zombie films like Night of the Living Dead (1968) for that matter. Yet there’s an important difference, and it’s particularly central to Peele’s film: that the villains taking over bodies here are fellow humans, and ones doing so based on an overt prejudice toward members of that community. We have met the body snatchers, that is, and they are us.
3)      The Last House on the Left (1972): This one is a good bit less obvious, but bear with me. At the heart of horror legend Wes Craven’s directorial debut (he also wrote and edited the film) is a crucial contrast between a gang of vicious thugs and an innocent suburban family; what makes the film’s second half especially shocking and brutal is that it’s the surviving family members who turn on the thugs, becoming even more violent than them in the process. Interestingly, Peele’s film could be described in parallel yet opposite ways: in Get Out the nice suburban family are the gang of vicious thugs, and it’s the innocent outsider (who’s with their daughter, if in this case consensually) who in the film’s final section has to become even more violent than them if he’s to survive and exact his revenge. I can’t say for sure that Peele was thinking about Craven’s film at all, but I will say that it’s precisely that kind of script-flipping that makes Get Out such a wonderful and important blockbuster.
May Recap this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Other blockbusters you’d highlight and analyze?

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