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‘Us’, ‘Lovecraft Country’ and ‘Run!’: Terror as denouncing racial prejudice



When one thinks of terror, countless productions immediately spring to mind. After all, the appreciation of filmmakers and filmmakers for stories like this goes back a very long time, with an emphasis on the many advancements produced by George Mélies in the birth of the audiovisual industry. The legendary director, even before the classic ‘Journey to the Moon’, had worked on two short films of just over two and a half minutes titled ‘Le Manoir du Diable’ (1896), commonly translated as ‘The Haunted Castle‘ or ‘A house of the devil’. It is not surprising that, in historical scope, the work is considered the first of its kind in question.

Since then, the spooky, satanic, and fantastical storylines – and all the subplots we’ve been able to get out of them – have gained a special place among audiences no matter how it has gone through its ups and downs and has been maligned to. many times. by international experts. From early 20th century expressionist inflections, such as “ The Office of Doctor Caligari ”, “ Nosferatu ” and “ Faust ”, to the slasher heyday of “ The Hour of Nightmare ” and “ Friday the 13th ”, and reaching the current days, with the franchise ‘Invocation of Evil’ and the psychological specter of ‘The Witch’ and ‘Hereditary’, the terror spreads in the most varied branches, showing itself like a metamorphic line that will always have something more to say.

Of course, such films are also accompanied by a very credible panorama. With the arrival of the 2010s, a wave of political and social criticism would begin to accompany feature films and to mobilize a welcome and shocking determination from the mainstream: terror as denouncing racial prejudice.

And, in this suis-generis that gathers strength year after year, there is a name of extreme importance – that of Jordan Peele. After giving up acting, Peele turned behind the camera with the infamous “ Corra! A deconstruction of all the clichés already seen in cinema and an unflattering appeal on the racism that the Afro-Brazilian community faces, even in the 21st century. down. The story centers on Chris Washington (played with extreme cruelty by Daniel Kaluuya), a young black man who is dating Rose (Allison Williams), a white girl who wants to take him to meet the family. At first, everything goes well: Rose’s parents are very receptive and already treat him like a member of the family. But things start to take on a frightening dimension and Chris realizes that he is at the center of a psychotic cult that attracts blacks to perform consciousness transplants of “clan” members, so that they attain physical characteristics. specific and a distorted type of immortality.

Made from a very small budget of $ 4.5 million, “Run! it was considered one of the best films not only of the year, but of the decade, in addition to causing a box office bang by raising over $ 250 million. And what is the reason? The long-awaited black protagonism on the big screen, outside of the race and gender stereotypes that have followed the industry for … well, still.

Peele, by far one of today’s most spectacular and unique filmmakers, was smart enough to maintain the essence of psychological terror as he explored the racism rooted – and often unnoticed – in the white mindset. We are not talking about racial supremacism, but members of the middle class, like Rose and her family, who may at first appear to be allies in the struggle of blacks – when, in fact, they turn their lives into something. unbearable and subordinate. to what is right. More than that, the film exposes a liberal ideology that constantly stumbles on flaws and dares not face its own mistakes. Even Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), who “is far from racist,” as Peele told Rolling Stone, “still has a strong role in the racist system. And the way that manifests itself is a person who believes that the eye of a better artist, a black artist, is what separates him from being a success or a failure ”.

It’s no surprise, given the facts presented, that the film won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, making Peele the first black winner in the history of the award – not to mention the fact that countless members of the jury (former Academy curators) chose not to watch the work, the same kind of boycott that Ava Duvernay suffered years ago with “Selma”. It all becomes even more complex and shocking when you remember that the production was nominated for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, leaving no doubt about its thematic importance and the fact that black activism , it is often rejected and diminished by those in power.

It is noteworthy that while Peele entered as the main instructor of the new generation of moviegoers that the equality, so much championed by the liberals, was still far from really concrete, many important names in terror had already put their own. gender perspective. . In 1968, for example, the legendary George A. Romero brought to screen one of the rare non-stereotypical black heroes of the era through Ben (Duane Jones) in “ Night of the Living Dead ” – the only survivor who is brutally murdered by a white militia in the dying moments. In 1992, we had the sophisticated examination of race, history, and love with Bernard Rose’s “ The Legend of Candyman, ” a high horror that assumes so much that the antagonist is the spirit. of an artist and the son of a slave who died in the 19th century, as well as the fact that Helen (Virginia Madsen) was afraid to join the predominantly black community of Cabrini-Green, Chicago, because she was white.

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Putting his own spin on the precursors he was keen to pay homage to, Peele would do the same again with ‘Nós’, bringing xenophobia to the fore and, once again, placing a black family at the center of a narrative. distressing about identity. Last year, it would be Misha Green’s turn to dive headlong into the acclaimed “Lovecraft Country” series, based on the eponymous novel by Matt Ruff. The novel and adaptation also deviated from a similar premise, taking the main storyline to the 1950s United States bombarded by segregationist laws, black lynching, and the aftermath of the Jim Crow era, which endorsed whites to treat the Afro-descendant community as inferior. and liable to psychological and physical violence. More than that, each episode emerged as a critical account of the writings of HP Lovecraft, master of cosmological terror, who was openly racist and anti-Semitic and extolled white superiority.

In 2021, Little Marvin would bring its own rescue to the 1950s with the anthology “ Them, ” allying primarily with Lena Waithe in script oversight, to shock audiences with a controversial and poignant portrayal of the suffering that black people have. suffered when confronted with white neighbors and an extremely prejudiced society – bordering on sadism and criticized countless times for the overly explicit construction of the messages he sought to deliver.

Terror still has a lot to explore and has taken on different dimensions as racial inclusion finds space in a sphere once dominated by white people. And, as things change, even if only in short stages, we realize that the inclusion of themes of prejudice in a genre that has been stagnating for some time is, in fact, the essence. purer and more real fear.

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