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13 Morbidly Beautiful writers discuss horror films that changed them — or changed their minds — while exploring issues of race, sexuality, trauma, and more.

“Horror is a reaction; it’s not a genre.” – John Carpenter
Intro by Editor-in-Chief, The Angry Princess 

While we here at Morbidly Beautiful remain focused on issues that matter most in today’s turbulent world, such as the Black Lives Matter and Support Survivors movements, we also recognize and honor the value of art and entertainment as an escape from real world horror and a powerful way to heal from trauma. Further, we understand the role genre films often play in reshaping thoughts and attitudes and illuminating important socio-political issues.

In that spirit, the unifying theme for this month’s collaborative article is GAME CHANGERS, as suggested by our writer Alli Hartley.

Our team was asked to think about a film that left a lasting impact and helped shape, reshape, or reinforce how they felt about a particular subject; a film that moved them in an unexpected way. In this way, we celebrate the horror genre’s influence and the indelible impact on our lives — as well as their its importance in the pantheon of important, and game-changing cinema.

1. Revealing Hidden Racism: The Wake Up Call of Get Out (2017)

An Essay by Alli Hartley

In February 2017, I didn’t think I had a problem with race.

I grew up in a small, mostly white town on the East Coast. I went to an extremely liberal (mostly white) college, and I could talk your ear off about the patriarchy. food-deserts, redlining, and socio-economic issues among people of color. I had it covered.

Being a fan of both horror and Key & Peele, I went into a screening of Get Out with no knowledge of the film other than the tantalizingly mysterious trailer and the understanding that its Rotten Tomatoes score was near 100%. If we’re being honest, I was also low-key patting myself on the back for doing my part to support Black Filmmakers. It was a win-win…win.

It was when Dean Armitage (a perfectly-cast Bradley Whitford) said “My Man” that I began to cringe. The “Barack Obama” line also didn’t help. But surely this was just a well-meaning misstep?

I cringed the entire way through the party scene, as the blindingly-white couples made passive insults about sports and sex, and Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) bore all of this with an expression of infinite, resigned patience. It was this look that finally broke through for me.

It was a look I recognized myself having made, in any number of work meetings, when my peers asked me to fetch them a coffee or assumed I was a secretary.

It was the same look I had when a boss made comments about sex workers, or when I was once again the only woman in a meeting. It was a look of powerlessness.

Chris expected this behavior from “well meaning” white folk; from all of them. He was accustomed to the micro-aggressions and the condescension. And he could do nothing but bear their weight alone in a group that screamed “You don’t belong” while acting oh, so very polite.

I realized then that the knowledge of the weight I bear, as a female-presenting woman. I recognized that, just as every moment of every interaction in my life is altered because I am a woman, so too is that constant tension a harsh reality for Black people.

I understood for the first time that, just as no man will ever fully understand the weight of being a woman, I will never understand the weight of being a person of color.

Jordan Peele sets this up so beautifully in the party scene, making a common situation slide seamlessly into a monstrous, dehumanizing design.

I thought that learning about civil rights and being politically progressive was enough to be a good ally. Get Out, in a way no other film ever has, gave me a brief glimpse of the racism that lives under the surface of so many conversations, and how easily, for too many Black people, that tense politeness can devolve into a waking nightmare.

2. Identity Crisis: The Exploration of ‘Other’ in Nightbreed (1990)

An Essay by Danni Winn

After the incredible success of Hellraiser, Clive Barker returned to the director’s chair for an ambitious, mystical, monster-infused movie. It features special effects by Bob Keen, a score from legendary composer Danny Elfman and a fantastical world only Clive could create. 

Nightbreed was a fascinating and unique piece of horror that told the tale of Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer), a young man besieged with dreams of a place called Midian — an underground safe haven for monsters, shapeshifters and horrific outcasts called the Nightbreed. He becomes severely distraught though, when his psychotic psychotherapist, Doctor Decker, played by fellow horror icon David Cronenberg, reveals to him that he is responsible for multiple gruesome murde