As of the time I’m writing this review, Jordan Peele’s low budget (4.5 million) horror mystery has made over 136 million dollars in domestic box office revenue. Combine that with the torrential downpour of critical praise it’s received and its sensitive, if not controversial, subject matter, the host of think pieces and hot takes that have been written and spoken about it, as a result, it’s pretty clear that in a very short time GET OUT has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. I have to admit, I missed the boat on this one. When I saw the trailer for it about 2 weeks before it was released, I honestly thought it wasn’t a real movie but instead, a satirical Key and Peele skit. Good thing I was wrong.
GET OUT centers on twenty-six-year-old photographer Chris Washington and his girlfriend Rose Armitage. The two appear to us on screen as a happy and committed couple preparing to visit Rose’s parents for the weekend, who live on a remote estate outside their city limits. Chris is concerned that Rose has not told her parents that she (being white) is dating a black man, doing so with the thought that the reveal coming without some kind of warning will have a negative impact on their impression of him. Rose is quick to dismiss the notion, citing her parent’s liberal political leanings and after some playful hugs and a kisses, the issue is dropped and the pair head out on the road for their fun weekend with mom and dad.
This movie does an excellent, near perfect job of setting up its dominoes. There isn’t a thing you’re meant to see in the first or second act that doesn’t come back into play in the third and at the exact moment you as the viewer need to see it. I’d go as far as to say you could show this to a film class under the heading “Symbolism & Foreshadowing 101” or “Mastery of Chekhov’s Gun”. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams are super cute as a couple with Allison getting extra kudos for the path you see Rose progress on throughout the movie. Lil’ Rel Howry provides the comic relief as Chris’s best friend Rod and for my money, gets one of the best lines in the whole movie toward the end. But my proverbial hat goes off to Katherine Keener who plays Rose’s mom Missy. She’s not in the movie a lot but the scene between Missy and Chris half way through was creepy as hell and one I won’t soon forget.
The movie builds tension with its effectively odd and bizarre score, uncomfortable close-up shots of characters faces along with a methodical pace that in the third act spirals you into a bloody and furious point of no return. This movie is an hour and forty-four minutes long but it never feels like the story is dragging at all. With that last bit said, I will sheepishly hold one thing against this movie. There wasn’t enough blood and gore for me to truly look at it as a horror film. I will readily admit that I’m not a fan of the genre at all save for one or two exceptions (three including this movie) and I know very little about the genre besides its core stories and popular tropes, so I could easily be wrong here. In my mind, this was more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie and I feel like as far as horror films go it might not be up to par with other celebrated horror movie standouts. I’ve read and heard more than one critic refer to GET OUT as a “horror classic”, so I could easily be wrong.
Now as far as the cultural and racial issues this movie taps into, I’m just going to focus on what I read and heard most about before I saw it – that GET OUT is a movie about “White Liberal Racism”. If that’s what you saw, then I’ll take your word for it but I didn’t see that. In fact, that’s another reason why I like this film – it’s so layered that you can see more than one thing going on in the story. From my viewpoint, the underlying issue at play in GET OUT is the unsettling fetishization or objectification of the black physique. It’s impossible to speak directly on it without going into spoilers but I’ll say that a subtle indicator of this is that most of the prejudiced comments made toward the main character Chris in this movie focus on his assumed athletic or sexual prowess, both of which are long-standing physical stereotypes about black men. As a black man who was in an interracial marriage for nine years (my ex-wife is white), I had similar comments and questions made to me by members of her family also, not in the compacted span of a weekend like the main character experienced but certainly within a period of months after it was clear to all that we were a “thaang” to quote from the movie. While on their own, such comments may appear harmless but they are in fact a subtle objectification of the person they are said to. And again no spoilers, but objectification plays a BIG part in this movie.
Overall, GET OUT is a taught well written genre film that uses the backdrop of racial and cultural taboo to tell a story we have seen many times before: the frightening tale of an unsuspecting person who finds themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere, confronted by an almost overwhelming foe with evil intent, but writer and director Jordan Peele serves it up to us expertly, in a new and interesting (if not controversial) way.
The film justifies the hype. It’s unique, thought-provoking and most important, it’s entertaining. I saw this for a second time a day or so ago so it’s still in theaters!
RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 5)
WHAT YOU CAN WATCH ALONG WITH THIS:
In a fashion similar to GET OUT, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014) takes the often provocative subject of teen sexuality and uses it as the backdrop for his own creepy and intense horror mystery.