Horror vérité: politics and history in Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017)




Landsberg, Landsberg

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This essay proposes that certain cinematic conventions of the horror film are uniquely suited to bring into visibility everyday, endemic horror – a horror that many in US society refuse to see. I call this use of horror, ‘horror vérité’ or truthful horror. As a form of politically inflected horror, it has potential to perform the kind of materialist history that Walter Benjamin theorizes, in which the historical materialist ‘appropriate[es] a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger’ in order to recast the present. Jordan Peele’s 2017 film, Get Out, is an example of ‘horror vérité’, because it uses the mechanics of the horror genre to expose actually existing racism, to render newly visible the very real, but often masked, racial landscape of a professedly liberal post-racial America. The film analysis considers: first, the use of the conventions of horror to expose everyday racial violence; second, its reliance on a dialectic of sleeping (hypnosis) and waking up (provoked by photography); and third, its performing of the historical materialism Benjamin describes, in which the jarring confrontation of the past and the present radically alters the landscape of the present.



Historical materialism, Walter Benjamin, Horror, Politics of mass culture


Alison Landsberg (2018) Horror vérité: politics and history in Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), Continuum, 32:5, 629-642, DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2018.1500522