Displaced , from this year’s Salem Horror Fest is a fun and wry look at gentrification as a young black man struggles to convince people that his new white suburban neighbours have sinister intentions for him, stemming all the way back to his past childhood as part of a demonic cult.
We meet Nate (Philip Jayoni) a young Black man who is a polite, yet extremely paranoid and reclusive social worker who lives in a suburban New York apartment with his grandmother (Hope Harley). We see that Nate is great with the children he interacts with via his job, but extremely awkward during all of his adult interactions. We discover that Nate had an extremely traumatic childhood with his parent’s leading a cult called The Temple Of The Jackal until his parents were killed during a police raid and the cult was disbanded.
However, when two unassuming yet distinctly weird and overly friendly white neighbours Heather (Megan Fitzgerald) and Lucas (Josh Atkinson, who also directs) move in, Nate begins to realise he might not be able to escape the sins of his past, the trauma he experienced and the demonic inheritance his parents had planned for him after all. The pair, who are extremely reminiscent of the Obama voting family in Get Out seem to have a lot of fun in portraying their psychological manipulation of Nate and their disturbance of his carefully controlled world.
The film’s framing of this story as a metaphor for the encroachment of white wealth on Black suburban neighbourhoods is handled well, and is an especially timely story to tell. We see the exaggerated effects of how gentrification destroys neighbourhoods and displaces the vulnerable, but we also see the effects it has on Nate’s mental health. Atkinson’s direction squeezes out every last drop of potential in Displaced’s clearly low budget and almost manages to overcome the film’s amateur aesthetics and performances. Still, he shows a lot of promise.
Ultimately, Displaced has an intriguing set-up that does unfortunately drag on a little long, but by the time we get to its all-out finale full of sacrifices, child endangerment and demonic possessions all is forgiven, even if I’m not so sure about the twist, gut-punch of an ending. Sure, it’s unfortunate that the presentation is clearly hampered by the film’s lack of budget and some of the acting is stilted and awkward, but all of the elements are there for a great story and an enjoyable horror film.
You can find more of our Salem Horror Fest 2020 coverage here