Get Out (2017)
★★★ / ★★★★
Here is a horror film for people who pay attention to what we see in the movies, what we hear on the radio, and what we experience in our current racial tension-filled America. On the outside it is indeed a horror film, which can be enjoyed for its entertainment value, but another layer reveals a savage comedy in the form of satire. It is daring in that it is actually willing to point at and peer into how white America views, treats, and defines African-Americans. Deeper still, underneath the obvious horror and comedic elements, therein lies anger and frustration because even though history books state that slavery had ended for decades, a strong argument can be made that racism, one of the roots that had allowed slavery to become a norm, still continues to this day but this time through a different output.
Jordan Peele writes and directs the material with intelligence, insight, and confidence. During the first half of the film, I caught myself feeling unimpressed due to many elements that compose painfully standard family comedies and horror pictures. For instance, the setup involving Rose (Allison Williams), who is white, bringing home her boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who is black, to the white suburbs to meet the white parents is taken right off familiar white-washed templates. For a while, there appears to be a lack of a specific voice or perspective; it does not answer why this particular couple in this particular story is worth telling. However, when it finally does take a sudden left turn, the timing is so, so right.
The sharp screenplay provides many creepy details urging viewers to ask questions. For instance, why is it that all visible servants in the suburbs are black? (Surprisingly, this is acknowledged early on by two characters who come from different worlds.) Why is the neighborhood so eerily empty and quiet? Why is it that during a weekend gathering, when Chris is not within the vicinity, all buzzing conversations screech to a deafening halt? Perhaps most importantly, why is it that when Chris interacts with each of the servants privately (Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson), it feels as though something about them is suppressed, that they are somewhat speaking in code?
In addition, small and seemingly unimportant scenes, like a breezy tour around the spacious house or a curious interaction with a police officer while on the road to the couple’s final destination, prove to be important later on. This is the kind of movie that one can look at while standing over the completed puzzle and appreciate how the pieces are laid out with such foresight and precision. Too many horror movies do not strive—let alone possess—these qualities. We have been inured to watching tension trickle away as more blood is shed and screams are reduced to desperate, helpless whimpers. The writer-director strives to elevate the genre and as a viewer who loves horror films, it is highly appreciated.
“Get Out” takes its time to set its bear traps but once they are triggered, the thrills are continuous and become synergistic with comedic line deliveries by LilRel Howery (who plays Chris’ enthusiastic friend who works for TSA), thereby turning shock into laughter. The impact is savage, relentless, its social commentary on-point right to the brilliant final scene.
I love horror movies because they usually function either as a reflection of our own fears or our society’s fears. As a person of color living in America, what it reflected to me is the U.S. at the moment is an increasingly less tolerant, certainly less accepting, place than it is compared to only a year or two ago. This trend, unfortunately, shows no sign of changing any time soon. Certainly not while the type of villains skewered in this film are not only charge, they actually promote racist behavior by keeping silent and creating distractions.