Catherine Keener (right) in Get Out
Maniacal and brimming with steely intent, Diane Salinger’s Mrs. Darrode in 2009’s Dark House, an entry in the short lived Fangoria Fright Fest series, is truly a compelling horror villainess. In fact, the well trained Salinger, who began her career with 1985’s Creature, commands with such intensity that Darrode would have been a worthy character to build a series around. Yet, disappointingly, the character, itself, is another in a long line of bad mother archetypes seen so frequently in genre films. Here, a foster mother who murders almost all of her charges in a fit of religious ecstasy, the unstoppable Darrode returns, as the film progresses, to get at the one girl who escaped her bloody crusade.
Salinger in Dark House
Nicely, the damaging expedition that the primary female characters in director-writer Jordan Peele’s brilliant horror satire Get Out engage in has nothing to do with lousy parenting or with romantic obsession, another common femme terror archetype, but with a more sinister agenda. It ties in with the film’s brilliant look at race and culture in society and is also a refreshing change to the nasty lady ghosts and vicious spirits that have inhabited such films as Ouija, Lights Out and many others, as of late. Granted, a strong feminine antagonist is always appreciated, but here it is nice to have them in the flesh and blood, slowly stirring the plot and keeping you guessing as to their true intents.
Therefore, Peele, who is justifiably being praised for bringing a strong sense of social commentary and compelling, layered minority characters to a genre that doesn’t necessarily always welcome them – except, so often, as Victim #1 – has also done right by his female characters, as well. It’s a profound achievement and, while these fictional women may not go down in the terror history books like Betsy Palmer’s magnificently protective Mrs. Voorhees (Friday the 13th) or Clare Higgins’ love possessed Julia (Hellraiser), they are the contemporary anti-heroines that we truly need in this period of time. Let’s hope there is more like them on the way.
Get Out is currently playing in movie theaters, nationwide.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!