Featured, Pop Culture, Race & Politics

“Get Out” And 10 More Films About The Existential Terror Of Existing While Black In America

Jordan Peele’s Get Out takes the existential realities of black men in this country and uses it as the plot for a horror film. A black man going to meet the parents of his white girlfriend is enough to send shivers down one’s spine—especially given the history of violence directed toward black men who were wrongly accused of merely whistling at a white woman. So for Peele to take that concept and develop a horror film is, honestly, ingenious. In fact, scholars of horror films argue that horror films embody the fears of a culture at any given time.

This got me thinking: what are other films, horror or otherwise, that reveal the history of anti-blackness in this country or make plain the evil that lies just beneath the surface of contemporary black life?

1: Dutchman

This is a film based on a brilliant play by Amiri Baraka. In it, a black man meets a white woman on a train and a problematic dialogue ensues. I won’t spoil how it ends, but suffice it to say that it warns of the danger posed by white women who fetishize black masculinity.

2: Green Room

This is written and directed by the filmmaker who made the indie hit Blue Ruin, and it tells the tale of a white punk rock group who unwittingly agrees to play for white supremacists in the woods of Oregon. Gory violence ensues, but this film reminds us that violent white supremacists are still around, and that there is no good reason for a person to go into the woods of Oregon.

3: Creature from the Black Lagoon

A classic horror film, it was not until I began to study the intersection of film and racialized fears that I began to realize that this film offers a glimpse into the fear black masculinity inspires within white America. The ‘creature’ is big, black and rises from the depths of a chaotic black lagoon to infringe upon (white) civilization. In fact, the first time we see the creature is when it attacks an innocent white woman. Not a great deal of deconstruction is needed to explain what is going on in the minds of the creators.

4: Rosewood

John Singleton, director of Boyz N The Hood and Poetic Justice, tells the story of a 1920s act of mass terrorism visited upon the prosperous all black town of Rosewood, Florida by citizens in a neighboring all white working class town. This film is terrifying because it lays bare the illogical nature of white supremacy.

5: Candyman

I couldn’t look in a reflective surface for a week after seeing this film. (Editor’s note: Nigga, I’m a grown-ass man and I still refuse to say Candyman five times in the mirror.) Real talk. I would just crawl into my bathroom beneath the view of the portal to evil that was my mirror.  This horror movie wrestles with the legacy of institutional violence visited upon black people. One could do an analysis on how it may be a phenomenological meditation on white fears of black rage.

6. Friday The 13th

Jason Voorhees is a white dude in a white mask killing mostly white folks. However, if there is a black person in the film, they always die first. This film, and others like it, taught me not to be the token black friend. Only a person so completely divorced from the black experience that they go to Supercuts with Ben Carson for a line up would go out into the woods with nothing but white people and be the first to investigate the noise down in the cellar. I refuse to be that guy.  

7: Higher Learning

The end of this film traumatized me by showing just how fragile white masculinity can be. A precursor to the mass shootings we see today perpetrated by white men, this film now reads as prescient.

8: Central Park Five

This Ken Burns documentary tells the story of five black and brown kids that were found guilty of raping and assaulting a white woman in 1980’s NYC. Like 13th, it reminds us how the American Criminal Justice system can ruin your life if you are a working class person of color. What scares me the most is how almost nothing was done to right the wrongs after they were cleared of the charges.

9: The Birth of a Nation (1915)

This is the quintessential horror film for black America. One could argue that many of the anti-black ideas that have permeated the culture during the 20th century find their genesis in this film. The myth of the black male rapist gained cultural currency with this film.  The image of a burning cross that struck fear in the mind of our ancestors comes from this film. In fact, the KKK are depicted as the heroes of the film, protecting white society from the dredges of indiscriminate violence perpetrated by black folks. This is a horrific, despicable film—both because of its images and the impact it has had on the culture. If anyone wants to know if films matter, if they can have repercussions in the real world, all they need to do is examine the legacy of this film—the first that was ever shown in the White House.

10. Anything on CNN, MSNBC, and especially FOX NEWS

Because life is not a horror movie, but it feels like one these days.

Law W.

Lawrence Ware is a philosopher of race at his day job and writes if the kids go to bed on time. He is a contributing editor of NewBlackMan (in Exile) and a frequent contributor to The Root and other publications. He has been featured in the New York Times and you can sometimes find him discussing race and politics on HuffPost Live and Public Radio International. He is the kind of Steelers fan that enjoys watching the Cowboys lose.

  • King Beauregard

    “Creature from the Black Lagoon”

    HE HAS A NAME IT’S “GILL-MAN” SO HE’S CLEARLY JEWISH

  • We are all in agreement about Candyman. I was hesitant to even type it out.

    And why is Higher Learning pretty much a documentary now?

    • Sweet Ga Brown

      just don’t type it twice more and you’ll be aight.

  • JBusy

    Can we agree to add Tales from the Hood?

    • miss t-lee

      Good add.

    • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

      I don’t know how this didn’t make the cut.

      • JBusy

        Yea…my day is f’d up by the simple thought of it.

    • Tales wasn’t really scary. The Crazy K part was underappreciated, though.

      • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

        You don’t think so? Chile the dolls?! … Wait, I forgot dolls in and of themselves creep me out. But dolls with your Big Mama’s soul in it? Jesus take the whee-yal! *Juicy voice*

        • miss t-lee

          The niglets!!!!

          • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

            Yas the nigglets! I watched the movie last year during the primary’s. The guy in the movie reminded me of Bill Clinton for some reason.

            • miss t-lee

              Bill Clinton? Bwhahah

              • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

                Lmao! You know I’m trash and/or trash-adjacent.

                • miss t-lee

                  I’m still laughing at this shizz.

            • MsCee
        • I’m not afraid of dolls. Now if they were midgets…

          • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

            Oh Lordt. You sound like my mother. I tried to get her to watch the Little Women shows and she gets mad. Her reasoning is: Why the fuck do they walk around like everything is normal? They are tiny adults! That’s not normal! I… My mother y’all.

            • We may be related.

            • miss t-lee

              Y’all wild.

      • Valerie

        #ThoseDolls

    • Mary Burrell

      That was funny remember The Nigglets?

  • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

    Candyman was truly the only horror film that scared me as a child. But as I’ve previously stated somewhere in all these articles, Shirley Temple movies make my skin crawl. Right after I admitted this, Black-ish aired the episode with the little white toddler in the elevator. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone.

    • DCFem

      Loved that episode of Black-ish. I just wish they had worked in a reference to the Greenwood section of Tulsa so folks had some real life horror movie level concept of why you don’t get on an elevator with a white girl.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_riot

      • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

        This.

  • miss t-lee

    That Central Park Five documentary was the truth. It was well done…and showed the level of f*ckery those kids went through.
    I remember Candyman having us shook in junior high…lol
    Higher Learning messed me up. Deja…dayum.

    • Ess Tee

      Deja…dayum and all. But I remember my crush on Omar Epps being so huge at the time that I was sadder for him lol.

      • miss t-lee

        For real.

    • TheUnsungStoryteller

      Yeah…for some reason, the only scene I really remember is when the skinhead dude killed Tyra. That was the moment my heart broke.

  • CrankUpThe_AC

    I hate scary movies but I got tickets to see this tonight! Hopefully it doesn’t hit TOO close to home O_O

    • Darkchloe144

      Yet somehow, we still end up there. How?

      • TheUnsungStoryteller

        Being influenced by wypipo.

        That’s all I got.

      • Mary Burrell

        Cause he loved his Becky even though he knew it was a bad idea.

  • King Beauregard

    Depending, zombie movies can be an example. There are a few different types of zombies in movies: shambling brain-eaters (what is currently in vogue, can be stopped only by head trauma), servants of voodoo priests (who can be stopped by salt), and of course the Horror of Party Beach monsters (atomic-age zombies who can be stopped by sodium). The voodoo-priest variety speak to white existential angst over blacks rising up.

    • Ms.Moon

      Voodoo is interesting according to where you’re from interacting with people who practice voodoo/hoodoo/obeah is not a big thing and both white and black folks took themselves off to see the practicioner if they had need to. I read a history of Marie Laveau and it opened my eyes, growing up in the West Indies I have had contact with people who “see” for you and if you have need you went because the advice was usually right.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        God fearing West Indians stay far away from obeah. Colonization is more than just geography

        • Ms.Moon

          In my family we don’t call it that other people might we went to a very old lady who “saw” and if she gave you advice or medicine you followed the advice or took the medicine. She was never wrong and woe betide you if you did not follow advice.

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            Fyah fi dat! Type of stuff you only whisper about

        • MsSula

          “Colonization is more than just geography”

          Can you just say it again for the cheap seats in the back?

    • Tam

      There is a theory that zombies are an appropriation of part of the voodoo religion.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    You not related right?
    Otherwise sorry for your loss.

  • Val

    I’ll add The Brother From Another Planet. It makes a pretty strong statement that we are made to feel like we don;t belong and there is no safe place for us to hide..

    http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BODM3NDEzMjU5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzE5NzQyMQ@@._V1._SX368_SY500_.jpg

    • Awesome movie.

    • miss t-lee

      I saw it. Didn’t look at it as scary. Di dyou?

      • Val

        It wasn’t your typical horror flick but the concept was scary once you realized that the brother was all of us.

        • miss t-lee

          I’d have to watch it again. It’s been ages since I’ve watched it.

    • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

      By chance do you remember that movie Brother Future? Mr. Moseby from Zack and Cody played the main character.

      • Val

        Haven’t seen that one.

        • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

          Yassssss! Just found it on youtube!!!!
          https://youtu.be/TRVyMZ1NIa4

          • miss t-lee

            Oh dayum, i remember this.

            • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

              This movie was so good. I wonder why I’d completely forgot about it.

              • miss t-lee

                I don’t remember if much at all, but I know I saw it…

                • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

                  Member when the one channel would play a movie every Saturday or Sunday night? They played the Whitney/Brandy Cinderella? That’s where I think I saw this movie. We used to tape them shows and watch them on repeat.

                  • miss t-lee

                    Movie of the week. Yup!

          • TheVilleintheA

            Is That a Gordon Gartrell shirt?

            • King Beauregard

              Holy crap, I think it is!

            • Mary Burrell

              lol

      • Mary Burrell

        I have Brother Future DVD on my Blue Ray player still in the wrap.

        • Irked Wind & Tired (Hooba)

          *Goes over to Amazon to grab a copy*

    • Classic.

    • Mary Burrell

      I forgot about that one Olivia Pope’s daddy was the alien.

    • Michelle J Bitunjac

      YES! Technically a Sci-Fi but still, wicked. I have it on my rewatch list this week. Another SciFi with Black lead actors worth mentioning is ‘Born in Flames’.

  • Ess Tee

    I’m not big on horror flicks (overactive imagination does me in), but it’s something that so many of them hinge on protecting the virginal white girl. She has to be virginal, too, because white, hetero patriarchy relies on “protecting” the virtue of white women…even while they continue to marginalize (and/or abuse) the very white women they claim to be protecting.

    • miss t-lee

      I prefer psychological thrillers to out right horror movies.
      I’m not a fan of gore, etc…

      • Ess Tee

        Same.

        I can do suspense and thrillers, but gore is a no-go for me.

        • miss t-lee

          Exactly.

      • Yeah, shock is better than gore

      • Darkchloe144

        Honestly, films that make you question morality, memory, reality, your life, what even is life etc. will always be scarier than watching someone get sawed in half or some isht (tho violence has it’s place).

        • miss t-lee

          Say it.
          Those are the ones that always stick with me.

        • Lisss

          Oh yeah. Have you ever watched “I spit on your grave” ? The original and/or remake?

          • Darkchloe144

            I’ve seen snippets of the remake I think. Could not deal.

            • Lisss

              Not gonna lie. the second half is sooo satisfying.

        • TheUnsungStoryteller

          Yes! I agree. I like those kind of movies. It reminds me of The Twilight Zone. or Alfred Hitchcock movies.

        • Mary Burrell

          Get Out was like what you described.

        • Gibbous

          That’s why I loved the X Files back in the day. Not only that, but they’d fade to black when the horror was going down and I’m sure what my mind dreamed up was better than anything they could have filmed.

          • Darkchloe144

            Subtlety is underutilized sometimes, I agree.

      • Did you ever see “The Last House on the Left”?

        • There were two right?

        • miss t-lee

          No. Good?

        • Darren Nesbitt

          Lakeview Terrace with Sam Jackson is good too.

        • Michelle J Bitunjac

          Yes. And I love it. It’s obviously simulated but the last of the 4 assaults really did my head. I’m a sucker for a great revenge flick. I do find the movie feminist. Interestingly enough, the film-maker was inspired to make it after he and his family found a woman who had just been assaulted.

      • esa

        agreed. horror films are for people who enjoy flooding their bodies with high doses of cortisol and adrenalin. i’m way to sensitive to do that on purpose. but i’m with you, i love thrillers, especially film noir ~*~

        • miss t-lee

          Film Noir!!!!! A fave.

          • esa

            oo yea if you have any recommendations i’d love to hear. have you seen The Blue Gardenia ? it’s Fritz Lang and Nat King Cole has a cameo …

            • miss t-lee

              No. Never seen that one.
              The Big Sleep, Mildred Pierce are great.
              Also, I just watched The Lady From Shanghai over the weekend. Very good.

              • esa

                oo nice ~ I haven’t seen The Lady from Shanghai. I’ll look into it!

                • miss t-lee

                  I think you’ll dig it. Report back. :)

              • Gibbous

                Not exactly noir, but the Usual Suspects is still an all time favorite.

                • miss t-lee

                  It’s good, but I don’t love it like everyone else seems to.

        • Mary Burrell

          I am a huge horror fan so I guess that’s me.

          • esa

            i totally get it. my nervous system cant take it but i can appreciate how it works for other people.

      • Mary Burrell

        Get Out was kind of like suspenseful and it was kind of predictable it wasn’t really scary. And it had my dude LaKeith Stanfield from Atlanta.

        • miss t-lee

          Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll see it. It doesn’t look like my scene…lol

    • Not to mention most horror movies are just flat stupid. I still want to see “Get Out” though.

      • Ess Tee

        Someone planned to invite me to see the movie. He knew better, though lol.

        That it’s being marketed as a horror flick is enough for me.

      • TheUnsungStoryteller

        I’ve been hearing good things about “Get Out”. I wasn’t expecting it though. To me, it looked like it was going to be a Wayans brothers comedy. But I guess I was wrong.

        • Mary Burrell

          No it was pretty good and a cautionary tale for those brothers who have a love of Becky.

          • TheUnsungStoryteller

            Okay. I need to check it out for sure.

          • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

            The movie is popular among many people.

          • “M”

            Well, great! More of that, then.

            :-)

          • Jo ‘Mama’ Besser

            Like Jordan Peele.

    • Rastaman

      That is why white women about to copulate or recently copulated are often the early victims in every horror movie along with the random black character. So by that calculus an interracial couple is probably 1A on the victim list of all spree killers.

    • Diego Duarte

      That’s because White Women are considered “property” in patriarchal societies. Misogyny does not only come from believing women are inferior to men, it comes from believing women are “property”: they are sexual objects.

      This is why conservatives and libertarians despise feminism. Because it’s made up of women who refuse to be property, and who refuse to be of any value or use to the white supremacists who would like to flaunt them as trophy wives.

      White supremacists loathe anything they cannot extract value off of. That’s why they’re hellbent on genocide against Blacks, because they can no longer exploit free labor from you.

    • Blueberry01

      Accurate.

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