Most times, there’s nothing more terrifying than reality.
After generating strong buzz from its first teaser, the latest Blumhouse production – Get Out – will be released this week and will almost certainly haunt your dreams. It’s scary enough to meet your girl’s parents for the first time; however slowly discovering that they’re a pair of psychopaths that brainwash others (namely minorities) to create the perfect village makes one wonder why in the hell you went for the swirl in the first place.
Aptly directed, superbly acted, and rife with tension, Get Out is everything you want in a horror film and more. Uninformed or snobbish moviegoers believing that sketch comedian extraordinaire Jordan Peele didn’t have the chops to sit in the director’s chair are woefully mistaken. Stated in recent interviews, Get Out has been a passion project for Peele that’s gone through numerous drafts over the years. While many would automatically presume Peele’s strength is entirely in the realm of comedy, it’s typically through comedy were able to gauge the full spectrum of the human experience and in turn, develop profound stories. If Get Out is any indication of Peele’s potential as a director, he’s off to a great start.
From the jump, Get Out throws you in the thick of a terrifying situation that its core audience – people of color – have always feared. The film has been rightfully marketed as psychological thriller/horror: it’s damn near a masochistic endeavor that delivers all the scenarios we (as PoC) have experienced but in a grandiose manner. The underlying premise of the film lifts concepts from Hitchcock, The Stepford Wives and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, but it’s the casual creepiness of practically everyone around our intrepid lead that makes Get Out so unnerving. Peele makes it quite known that the real villains are those that confidently bask in the light of day, assured in their dominance thanks to the privilege granted by the lack of melanin in their skin.
Photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is convinced by his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents at their isolated lakeside enclave in upstate New York. One’s intuition should already be working overtime because it’s common knowledge that we Black folk don’t like being in the middle of the woods. Especially if we’re surrounded by White people. Before the couple even reach her parent’s opulent home, Chris is harassed and physically intimidated by local law enforcement, a cold reminder that bigotry is a pervasive conceit no matter the social climate.
For much of the first half, Peele wrote Chris into every skin-crawling scenario Black men and women endure while in the presence of oblivious white people. Not aware their daughter was dating a Black man, Missy and Dean Armitage (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford), along with every other white acquaintance, overcompensates to embarrassing levels when attempting to relate to our lead. Basically, it’s the timeless “I have a Black friend so I can’t be racist” harangue that’s pulled out of pasty guilt-riddled asses on the regular. This would be a horror show in itself if Chris hadn’t realized the few Black people in the neighborhood were eerily complacent and agreeable to whatever anyone tells them. Distressingly, Chris’ presence agitates them to the point of desperation. As one brother (LaKeith Stanfield) feebly attempts to warn him of the atrocities taking place, others who are thoroughly conditioned already began scheming to prevent his escape.
While Keener and Whitford play their parts very well as vaunting paper liberals with not-so-hidden sadistic streaks, the performances from Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson are particularly harrowing. The duo are dressed up as the Armitage’s help, down to insulting frocks worn by turn-of-the-19th-century servants. Chris has a hard time seeing them silently mill about the house as would anyone; on occasion he catches them enact truly bizarre behavior when their “employers” aren’t present. In spite of the weird goings-on inside the Armitage home, Chris wonders if his own prejudices are in play. The only connection he has to the outside is his best friend Rod (LilRel Howery), who gives Get Out the right amount of levity in certain segments so we’re not drowning in despair. Eventually Chris is thrown in peril which launches the third act into a satisfying resolution no one ever could have expected. By the film’s end, you’ll come to realize its title has more than one meaning. Primarily intended as a warning for Chris, “get out” is also a threat to those who are unlike the majority. The Armitages and their associates – claiming to be down with the brown – are easily offended when their pristine lifestyles are daintily sullied by the faintest bit of diversity. Naturally, as any rational people would do, they conspired to ensure their way of life isn’t disturbed. Like the age-old adage goes… If you can’t beat them, rob them of their autonomy and make them join you. Very Trumpian, if you ask me.
There have been a few surprises at the box office in 2017 so far, yet without question, Get Out is an unexpectedly fresh, disturbing, smart, enjoyably awkward, relevant and most assuredly excellent film by Jordan Peele. A fantastic execution of satire, commentary and red blooded horror.