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American Nightmare: Racism and Horror Cinema

We don’t see any American dream,
we’ve experienced only the American nightmare.
Malcolm X


Sometimes there are films that are released at the perfect moment. Jordan Peele's “Get Out” hit theatres the same month of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States, the president who would prove the film's key theory: the fallacy of the post-racial era.

This kind of cinematic prescience has happened before, in one of the seminal films of modern horror, “Night of the Living Dead”, released in the hot year of 1968. George Romero's masterpiece had, for the first time in the history of North American cinema, a black protagonist, even though the part was initially written with a white actor in mind.

This simple change allowed for the ending in which Ben is 'mistaken' for the undead and killed by a white myriad to evoke the assassination of Martin Luther King, which occurred shortly after filming ended. The outcome of “Night of the Living Dead” was particularly desperate and did nothing more than testify to the condition of the black community in the USA at that time. With that in mind, Jordan Peele opted for a “fictional” ending to his “Get Out”, that is, one where the protagonist saves himself without being killed or imprisoned. In this case, fiction was used to correct reality, in the hopes that these two possibilities could be inverted on this side of the mirror. Unfortunately, in the real world, no amount of fiction was enough to save George Floyd (and many others) - the video of his arrest, or rather of his murder, is the most horrible horror film of all. This cycle aims, through genre, as did Peele, to show a different narrative from the one we are used to seeing.

With a selection of seven horror films, whose main theme is racism in the USA, the genre will prove that, contrary to what might be expected, it is possible to wake up from this “American nightmare”. From the idealism of “The Intruder” to the critical analysis of “Ganja & Hess” and “White Dog”; from the catharsis of “The People Under the Stairs” and “Tales from the Hood” to the epic “Candyman”, and ending in the pragmatic “Get Out”, they are all cinematic predecessors of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
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