I have not watched a movie this angry, scary and funny since Quentin Tarantinos, Hateful 8. Oddly enough the two have so many things in common. Both are about the racial mistrust and prejudice in society. Both films are mysteries, one Agatha Christie, the other a parable of assimilation ala The Stepford Wives. Both come to very similar conclusions but both directors resolve their tales in different ways. Tarantino, as he tends to do, gives you the visceral comeuppance you would expect of QT, but unlike the past, he did not let you off the hook and doesn’t let feel that the good guys won. Get Out also doesn’t let you off the hook but it isn’t as callous or obvious in its approach. Which is warranted, because Peele isn’t working in caricature as Q.T. has done in the past. Peele is merely taking recognizable stereotypes and stretching them, there are times where Get Out feels of a kind with Donald Glovers, Atlanta in terms of craft.
Jordan Peele opens Get Out in the only way that makes sense. Following a black man walking through the suburbs, the man in question later revealed to be Andre walks down a white suburb while trying to follow directions from his friend. You can feel the discomfort and anxiety not just through the Dre, played by Keith Stanfield, but in the camera. While all the movement is very well done and you never lose the sense of where you are you can feel something voyeuristic in the Steadicam that adds to the film’s tension. Mind you nothing has even happened yet and Peele shows that he has done his homework. Dre realizes a car has caught his attention and is following so he decides to change direction. Walking across the street he sees the drivers has clearly gotten out and like that Keith is taken from behind by a choke. One of many little touches that now has so much loaded meaning.
Peele knows exactly what he is doing opening a film with a black man in America getting choked out. While it’s not quite Do The Right Thing predicting events twenty years down the line, it is Peele subtly letting you know this film is about America as a whole. Never crossing too far over the line into satire, every line and piece of the dialogue feels real and disturbing. It as a movie that builds on a bed of long set mistrust and keeps adding bricks till you the audience are trapped by the paranoia. What starts as a creepy brother just misspeaking while drunk turns into being sized up like cattle and meeting old friends who have somehow changed completely. The slow escalation and its translations showing Peele’s brilliance.
Get Out on top of being so relevant is also just a good horror movie. If you removed the context of our lead character Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, and made this a story about anyone entering unfamiliar situation Peele’s sense of the creepy and unsettling would still work on you. That is what makes it so great, The situation in the film amplifies the distrust and horror.
Chris is drawn to the same burbs where Dre was taken while visiting his girlfriend’s parents who he had not met. Before we ever get there, Get Out is a movie about that meeting of the parents who have no idea. It’s about the nerves and frustration that can come from an interracial relationship. It is also about white privilege. On the way, upstate Alison Williams as Rose hit’s a deer running across the road. When stopped, as seen in trailers, they speak with a cop who eventually asks for Chris’ ID for no apparent reason. The Rose character is shocked and bemused by this treatment and right away she can tell that things might not go as smoothly as she once thought.
The beginning 30 minutes of the film create such a compelling dramatic setup, opening scene aside, that it allow the film to work as a pure drama. Peele obviously understands that great horror is not actually about scares or unsettling imagery. None of that matters if you do not care about the characters – Peele’s gets that there needs to be a version of the film where nothing horrific ever happens but the end result would be emotionally the same. Peele’s script has a dramatic backbone equal to that of The Exorcist or last years The Invitation. As these films age, they may cease being scary but they will remain dramatically potent.
Get Out ends as a palindrome, not unlike Edgar Wright. a noted inspiration for Peele as a filmmaker. The film begins with a black man getting choked and ends with a black man choking the white villainess. It’s eventually revealed that Roses entire family leads a pseudo-cult with one goal. Turning white people into black people, giving white elite the ability to live on in with their ‘superior intellect” in “superior physical bodies”. The whole family is a system to entice, trap and transform white men into black men. The bait being Rose.
The scene that will make you shout in the theater is when Chris finds a box with previous marks that Rose has lured into the wilderness. Peele establishes early on the Rose the ‘innocent pure white girl’ has never dated black men before. Chris holds a stack of Men’s Fitness models and even a picture of Georgina the housekeeper. We know there’s something wrong and so does Chris but he loves her, so he continues to let her come along even though we know she’ll turn on him.
Eventually, Chris does get free and eliminates Roses whole family. Before he can get away Rose looks up from selecting her next target. The final conflict is violent and full of pent up psychosexuality – like I said it ends with Chris on top of Rose slowly choking her to death. Like Daisy Domergue at the end of Hateful 8 – we end with a personification of white evil slowly choking. But… that’s not how it ultimately ends. Chris looks into her eyes see’s she enjoys it – he can’t let her win. He can’t let white America bring him down to their level.