3.5 out of 5 Skulls
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, LilRel Howery
Written & Directed By: Jordan Peele
Review By: Kelsey Deth
Get Out is a refreshing psychological entrapment horror film that pairs racial subtext with eerie and unsettling suspense, resulting in a strong vision of terror. Even though I can’t ever be in our lead, Chris’ shoes, being a white woman, I can understand the very real, relevant fears this movie will invoke in those who could be. Regardless of my skin color, imagining myself in this situation is utterly crippling and unthinkable, it invokes a true sense of dread and helplessness in me. I felt for Chris and was invested in him finding his way out of this hellish fate. Even before we know what’s going on we are really on this surreal offbeat path with Chris as he gets closer to finding out just why something feels so wrong.
There are some clear critiques towards race relations here, such as several people grouping Chris with all black men out there (Obama, Tiger Woods, etc.) and thinking they’re relating to him by doing this, which is really further proof of the separation between races in this film, that they see race before humanity. There’s another instance when Chris is asked for his ID, automatically assumed to be a guilty party, when they file an accident report with the police, although he wasn’t driving. Overall though, as sick as this scenario Chris finds himself in ends up being, I didn’t necessarily read Chris as being targeted coming from a hateful place; that they were doing this because they despised black people. Not that this makes it any better, but it still seems noteworthy. They were targeting his race to better their own lives, using black people for their own means, not caring about the cruel consequences they had to face because of it. Given this country’s history that could certainly be a way of saying not much has changed. Although, it is worth noting the main person benefiting from Chris’ torment motive seemingly has nothing to do with the color of his skin, but his gift and worth, even if he cares more about what he will gain than everything Chris will be losing.
Being that many people are in on this scheme, I can certainly see it representing the system- and even elements of our society- that doesn’t truly treat every human life equally, whether it comes from a place of jealousy, selfishness, or just not enough empathy. This critique is very prevalent and for sure a focus of the material, but I didn’t feel like it was completely heavy-handed. The best socially conscious horror tackles subjects like this with subtly, creativity, and fitting metaphors, utilizing the genre to bring out very real fears and exposing and allowing others to understand the type of existing evil those fears are born from. Get Out’s race relation’s critique is overt, but ultimately settles in to allow the viewer to take away the meaning they see. I choose to believe this instance to not be totally literal or to be saying ‘all white people are evil and out to bring black people down’, but to represent fears black people have about their lives and well being not always being important to the system that has no qualms about benefiting from their suffering, which is completely valid and a powerful conversation piece to include in a horror film. Jordan Peele, the writer/ director of the film, is married to a white woman himself and his parents’ are an interracial couple, giving me further reason to believe this film isn’t coming from a place of hate towards an entire race, which is a view Peele shows no evidence of holding, but simply meant to portray some of his fears and oppressive experiences growing up in this country as a black man.
In many ways, this is a slow burn, the core of the terror and the unveiling of the truth of what’s going on comes at the end of the film, but the pacing is right to equally pull you in and have you increasingly on guard with each passing moment. It starts off very light and loving, showing the embrace and relationship of a young interracial couple, but has a very odd, surreal tone from the point the couple arrives at the girlfriend’s parents’ house. For some time, it’s uncomfortable, but there doesn’t seem to be signs of real danger.
There is some comedy sprinkled throughout with Chris and Rose’s family, but it’s predominantly a dreary, odd, off putting tone. I don’t always feel the need for comedy to be put in very serious, dark horror films. Sometimes it can even take away from the tone and dire situation. However, the comedy from Chris’ best friend, Rod (Howery), is just the perfect touch of comedic relief and is the only voice outside of this world that is somewhat in the know. While he is completely hilarious and adds great life, he also works as a voice of reason. Howery played this wonderfully with stellar comedic timing and going beyond that, giving us one of the strongest personalities in the film. He has great purpose beyond just being the comedic relief.
Overall, the acting was top notch. Daniel Kaluuya, was incredible as our fish out of water lead, Chris. I think his performance and character played a large role in the gripping suspense working so well, because we cared and related to him. His performance made it feel like we were in his shoes, experiencing it all with him. We were right there, puzzling every step of the way to uncover the truth along with him, so we didn’t blame him for not trying to get out sooner. Kaluuya nailed the range of emotional extremes his character had to endure wonderfully, making it seem all the more tragic and infuriating. Allison Williams played the loving girlfriend, who was slowly becoming aware of her seemingly unracist family’s faults, very well. A huge part of the film depended on us believing in this relationship and Williams and Kaluuya’s chemistry and honest, heart-felt moments didn’t let us down. Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford were perfectly cast as the parents. They both had a certain energy and approach that made them likable and real and simultaneously something that was still off putting about their demeanor and attitudes.
I really appreciated the realism of Chris’ character. He was initially simply trying to make a good impression with his girlfriend’s family, while slightly on guard. The weirder things got the more alert and suspicious he became, even reaching out to others. It was a progression that felt right, not jumping to conclusions too quickly or remaining clueless and in denial for too long. He was smart from the beginning, even if as in any horror film, there is always something you could have done differently or tried to get out of this situation quicker. For majority of the film, he really didn’t have a reason to think he was truly in danger until it was nearly too late. Chris wasn’t invulnerable to what he was being subjected to either; fear, pain, and helplessness flooded him when he realized the reality, which I appreciated as it made him that much more human. He wasn’t weak, but he also wasn’t impossibly strong. In many ways, he worked as the male counterpart to the type of final girl I most appreciate, which had you fiercely rooting for him to survive this horrible situation he was trapped in.
There is a slight possible story flaw in regards to whether this could really be happening with no suspicion from the police. I can’t go in to the details of why without giving a major spoiler so I won’t, but I do think they could have gone a little farther with acknowledging the police’s role in this. Either they should have been on to the guilty parties and likely imprisoned at least a few of the key players here or I could have believed them knowing, but either turning a blind eye or being in on it themselves, having some personal gain from the suffering of these people. It would have even been consistent with the attitudes shown in the film if it was just that the police didn’t care enough about finding missing black men, it would have been a valid and fitting critique. I suppose that’s lightly hinted at, but not really, because when they are approached about someone missing, it honestly does sound far fetched. So the cops laughing it off doesn’t seem to be due to the race of the missing persons. They didn’t need to make a statement with this, it could have been any of these possibilities, but I think it would have just added that much more total realism for there to be a reason that something like this could happen and could continue to happen without consequence. It would honestly make the entrapment seem that much more final. That being said, this isn’t something that really took me out of the film. In honesty, it’s the only minor hole that comes up. Overall, Get Out really is a very solid film that isn’t lacking much.
Psychological horror always has a way of grabbing a hold of me fiercely. There’s something about having your very mind under attack and your own control taken away that is the ultimate cruelty. It is essentially silencing and suffocating the very human spirit, which is typically the most relentless aspect of humanity; the one thing that a tormentor usually can’t take from you. The visuals and style they choose to tell this aspect of the story in is both beautiful and translates so well to utter despair and darkness. Even before we know the significance of it, it holds weight and really takes us in to a different conscience world. This attacking through the mind tactic of horror is my favorite, easily one of the things that initially got me to fall in love with Wes Craven’s visions of horror. In a way, Peele takes that approach and adds social relevance to it, which I applaud as being all for horror with meaning; horror that can explore evils in the real world through the genre. In that regard, if I had to compare Get Out to something, to give people a better idea of what to expect, I would say it falls in the realm of The Skeleton Key or The Serpent and the Rainbow.
I wouldn’t have minded getting a little deeper in to the psyche and motives of the villains here. We know there’s a motive with them benefiting off their victims loss, but it’s a pretty big operation and seemingly a huge part of their lives that they are committed to. Those involved show no remorse at all. It makes you question what started this and where their mind is at when they are doing this, whether it’s something they believe is making the world better, which could have its own powerful social commentary, or simply that they don’t view this victim as truly human or the same as them. That understanding of their mindset isn’t present and although upon watching the film it didn’t automatically seem like something lacking, when you really think about it, it makes the critique on race relations a little more one sided. No matter what their mindset was, it wouldn’t justify anything, but it would give us a more well-rounded understanding of this whole operation and why it’s happening. Even the race issue aside, the most interesting villains are always ones with layers and reasoning.
Get Out is only slightly over-hyped. It’s worthy of praise no doubt. I don’t have many complaints about it, but I don’t think it quite reaches a level of brilliance or greatness. It is still a very solid, richly suspenseful, horror film with a terrifying concept executed well and at least ventures towards a worthy discussion on race and oppression. A well-loved and profitable horror film with substance that is actually depicting something that is truly horrifying is a wonderful step for the genre, which I feel has been in a bit of a rough patch over the past recent years. In that regard, Get Out is a breath of fresh air.