Chris is a young black man who’s meeting his white girlfriend Rose’s family for the first time. Her parents seem friendly–at first. However, Chris is in over his head as a gathering takes place with a sinister purpose for him.
The movie is written and directed by Jordan Peele, who’s most famous for being a comedian. (He’s also married to a white woman, which has caused some speculation about his motivation for writing this movie.) So it seems a little out of left field for a funnyman to be making a Blumhouse-produced horror movie. Well, it does have plenty of comic relief in the form of Chris’s friend Rod, who warns him not to go, and supplies fairly amusing one-liners throughout. He’s kind of annoying, but he’s definitely the voice of reason.
However, the movie does have its creepy moments. Rose’s family exudes a sense of something being off, from Rose’s mother Missy, who is cold behind her smile, to the African American maid Georgina, who constantly smiles. The music also helps set the mood; the score includes gospelly spiritual songs, which along with the rural Alabama scenery brings to mind slavery. Or there’s the more traditional for the genre screechy violin when something unsettling happens. There are a few effective jump scares, mostly when Georgina appears suddenly.
Most of the horror is psychological. As a white person, I felt a lot of guilt, because it’s not every day I’m reminded of my privilege, and challenged to consider what life is like for someone without it. There’s a scene when Rose hits a deer with her car, and she gets mouthy with the responding police officer who asks to see Chris’s ID for seemingly no reason. Chris treats it as no big deal, while Rose protests because she can—there are no repercussions for her. Not only is she white, she’s majorly rich. In the course of the movie Chris is treated not only like a criminal, but also like an object. Speaking of the deer, greed and possessiveness are big themes. Deer are seen repeatedly in juxtaposition with Chris, and I think they represent the need to take for no reason. People shoot deer and mount their heads because they can. Because they want them. One of the scariest moments in the movie is when right after Chris and Rose go into the woods for a walk, Dean auctions Chris off. It’s filmed with no discernible dialogue, just blank-faced white folks bidding on a person with bingo cards
The film defies conventions. There are so few horror movies that directly examine issues of class and race. The People Under the Stairs comes to mind, but that was written and directed by a white dude. Overall, it’s an eerie, well-made movie. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something extraordinary. (And that’s not white guilt talking.)