Get Out – Review
A young African-American visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.
There’s less than a week left to go for our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature. The spookiest of spooky days is getting closer and we are still reviewing a movie for each day of October. Today we are taking a look at Jordan Peele’s 2017 Oscar winning movie Get Out. Often mentioned as one of the best horror movies of all time. Get Out subverts the traditional horror formula by presenting us with an African American protagonist and a group of white villains.
Created during a period in America where Barack Obama was in power and recent racial tension had put to rest the false sense that racial issues were something of the past. Get Out aims to shine a light on a new type of racism; a type that is born through complacency. A racism that exists within middle class Americans who claim to be liberal and vocally support African Americans despite displaying racial ignorance. It’s interesting stuff and very different for the horror genre. As always, I’ll give a quick breakdown of the movie that you can skip if you like.
We have been reviewing a horror movie a day for the entirety of October 2022 leading up to Halloween. I intended these reviews to be a bit of a shorter format but it kind of didn’t work out that way. Still, we have less than one week remaining so keep checking back. We are featuring a range of movies from horror classics to international hits and a few indie darlings. You can check out the entire K-O-Ween feature by clicking right here.
Get Out – Synopsis
Get Out begins with a young man walking down the streets of what looks to be a middle class white suburb. A car suddenly passes, turns in the road and begins following him. Not wanting to face confrontation, the man turns around and begins walking back the other way. A door on the car slowly opens, the man looks back when suddenly a person appears from out of the shadows and grab him around the neck. The person wrestles the man to the car and bundles him in.
Later on, Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, talks with his girlfriend Rose, played by Allison Williams, about his concerns with meeting her parents for the first time. Chris, an African American, asks Rose whether she has told her parents that he is black. She tells him she hasn’t but that they aren’t racist and will love him. Rose claims her father would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have.
The two head off to Rose’s parents house but, on the way, they hit a deer that runs out in front of their car. Chris looks for the deer to check whether it has died while Rose calls the police to report the accident. The police arrive and tell Rose she should have called animal control instead. The officer asks to see Chris’ identification which enrages Rose. Chris, seemingly used to this situation, shows the officer his ID and the pair carry on to the house.
The pair arrive at Rose’s parent’s house and are greeted by Rose’s dad Dean, played by Bradley Whitford, and her Mum Missy, played by Catherine Keener. Dean seemingly attempts to relate to Chris by referring to him as “my man”. He also tells him he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could. When touring the house, Dean shows Chris a picture of his dad who raced against, and lost to, Jesse Owens in an Olympic qualifying event. He expresses his admiration for Jesse and the way he showed the world that Hitler’s Aryan race were not superior.
An Uncomfortable Welcome – Synopsis Cont.
While touring the house Chris notices that the family have an African American woman working as a cook and servant. Moving outside, it also becomes apparent that they also hire an African American janitor. Recognising Chris’ discomfort, Dean assures him that, although the visual is bad, the pair looked after his ailing parents and he couldn’t bring himself to let them go. Later that night, the family have dinner with Rose’s brother Jeremy, played by Caleb Landry Jones. Jeremy acts strangely and makes comments to Chris regarding his genetics and how he could be an athletic beast if he applied himself.
The next day, a large party is held at the house attended by upper class white folk. The guests make comments about how much they like African American athletes, comment on Chris’ physical build and ask Rose whether it’s true that sex with an African American is better. Chris spots another person of colour at the party and tries to speak with him. The man, called Logan King played by Lakeith Stanfield, seems awkward, distant, and is accompanied by a much older white woman.
Later at the party guests are asking Chris about his experience living as an African American. Chris suggests they ask Logan as he should know. Wanting to show his friend how bizarrely Logan is acting, Chris pulls out his phone before accidentally taking a photo. The flash seemingly triggers something in Logan. He violently grabs Chris and shouts at him to get out. In this moment Chris believes he recognises the man and it immediately becomes clear that all is not as it seems at the Armitage house.
Psychological Horror With a Different Approach
Get Out is a psychological horror movie that approaches things from a slightly different perspective. Your standard horror movie protagonist it almost entirely oblivious to the danger they are in. They make stupid decisions, seem unaware of impending threats, and make all the wrong choices. Get Out changes this and presents us with a character who is aware of the strangeness of his situation. Chris is a capable guy who knows he is at risk. He knows that something is going on. It’s a different way of doing things and it’s hard not to like it.
Get Out is set in a society that wouldn’t seem out of place in a movie like Edward Scissorhands. Entirely white and seemingly progressive, it turns out that there is evil intentions behind the empty words of the people in the movie. Chris is suspicious from the start and doesn’t let his guard down once.
While not being hugely scary, Get Out attempts to get inside the viewer’s head and unsettle them. Keeping you on edge for the entire 104 minute runtime. The movie slowly builds to a satisfying finale. Get Out feels fully fleshed out and very well developed. In a world of half baked horror, it is nice to see a movie so well constructed. Jordan Peele is obviously a huge fan of classic horror. Get Out features a number of nods to horror classics and the influence of movies such as Rosemary’s Baby are very clear.
Holding Up a Mirror to Middle America
Get Out kicks off as a somewhat satirical look at liberal middle America and their worrying lack of insight when it comes to racial issues. Believing that voting Obama and enjoying African American music artists or athletes means they can’t be racist. Get Out holds a mirror up to this group of people and turns them into terrifying villains with motivations that subvert what we have come to expect from these types of horror movies.
This is a brilliant way of pulling the rug out from under the viewer. The natural inclination would be to set Get Out in a southern US red state with a bunch of overtly racist hicks. I imagine that’s what most people would be expecting when setting a horror movie against a backdrop of racist white America. Get Out does not follow this blueprint at all, however. The movie feels as though it is set in a part of America that is, seemingly, much more progressive. The interactions are awkward and the cast’s overly enthusiastic admiration for African Americans is the tool used to make the viewer suspicious and keep them on edge.
This constant praising and pointing out of the difference between Chris and the other people at the party is very reminiscent of a whole generation of people who call themselves allies on social media. Prodding and poking Chris while complimenting him, the guests almost demand that he worship them for their acceptance of him. It’s a deft reflection of the white saviour notion that so many people, nowadays, seem to be struck with.
A Reflection of Modern Society
Get Out feels very timely in a world where there are so many people who act like the people in this movie. Education and action is replaced with words and hashtags. All the while, the people doing this expect praise and to be viewed and respected as protectors of minorities. Flashing a BLM banner is more important than educating themselves and their friends on the cycle of poverty and the effects prejudice has on multiple generations of African American families. This is a new type of everyday racism that exists through ignorance and the assumption that they are already doing enough just by accepting and defending minorities.
White people’s acceptance of black culture often comes down to either outright racism or how it can be absorbed, appropriated and consumed. Get Out goes deep into this reflecting on the way white people of power attempt to monetise black culture and utilise it for their own gain. Black culture is rarely respected for what it is and Get Out shines a light on this systemic racism.
We are placed into the shoes of Chris and offered an incredibly rare opportunity to engage in this hidden prejudice from the perspective of the victim. This is a situation that is experienced by minorities every day. Chris feels suitably wary of the people at the party and increasingly suspicious as the situation intensifies. Framed in a horror movie narrative, it might be easy to forget that this is actual everyday life for minorities in western society. Get Out is a horror movie made for black horror fans. It is also a movie that can remind us white people that the best action we can take is to listen and to educate ourselves. Some consider Get Out to be a racist movie; this is, evidently, not true. It is, however, a movie that exposes the uncomfortable realities thrust upon minorities by white people.
An Incredible Debut for Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele, more known for acting and the Key and Peele comedy sketch show than for directing, absolutely knocks it out of the park with his feature length horror directorial debut. Get Out is a psychological horror movie that takes the very real issues facing minority communities in the West and spins them into a fascinating and unique take on horror. Stylish, witty, and incredibly impactful. Get Out entirely earned its reputation as one of the best horror movies of the last few years.
The fact that this is Peele’s horror debut is, frankly, stunning. He directs with a style and confidence that usually only comes from years behind the camera. Many of the shots in Get out are truly iconic. The pacing, as well, is perfect and you never once feel anything other than completely connected to the main character. This is a huge ask for even an experienced director but Peele nails it as though he has been doing it for years.
I will point out that I say this with no bias. This is, actually, the only Jordan Peele project that I actually enjoyed. Peele’s follow up effort, Us, while not actually a bad movie, didn’t do anything for me at all. The remake of Candyman, for which Peele had writing and production credits, is one of the absolute worst big name horror movies I have seen in a very long time. Sadly, I was insanely amped for both of these movies only to be hugely disappointed. Maybe his style is just not for me but, either way, Get Out is, without question, a great movie.
Mostly Great Acting
Acting, for the most part, is brilliant. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris is fantastically good. A nuanced and thoroughly believable performance leaves you nothing other than incredibly impressed. Kaluuya does an expert job of relating the awkwardness of Chris’ situation as well as his increasing feelings of unease and fear. There are a number of scenes that stand out as being particularly excellent and noteworthy. His ability to turn on emotion and express the way his character is feeling is, at times, stunning.
Allison Williams, as Rose, is pretty much typical romcom girlfriend fodder for the most part. She gets a lot better toward the end, however. Bradley Whitford is excellent as Rose’s dad Dean and Catherine Keener does a decent job as Rose’s mum Missy. Side characters are generally brilliant. I loved Betty Gabriel’s performance as Georgina and Lakeith Stanfield as Logan was great. I absolutely hated Caleb Landry Jones as Rose’s brother Jeremy. He had me cringing pretty hard with his low rent impersonation of Johnny Depp. I felt as though he very much stood out for being worse than everyone else. He honestly felt as though he was pulled from an entirely different type of horror movie.
Cinematography is excellent. There are plenty of impressive shots here despite the bulk of the movie looking fairly simple. Some of the scenes are genuinely iconic and will remain in the minds of horror fans for years. The creativity on display is very easy to appreciate. There are also some interesting uses of depth to setup effective scares. One scene stands out, in particular, for this use of depth but I won’t spoil it.
Sound production is also decent. There are some very fitting musical numbers that add nicely to the tension. There are also some scenes that will really reward you for having a decent sound system. We watched this movie once at the cinema and once at home via a projector with a surround sound system. I have to say, I think I preferred the home cinema setup. The sound is very immersive and the 2:39.1 aspect ratio fills your visual field perfectly, dragging you into the world kicking and screaming.
Not Hugely Scary and Somewhat Predictable
Get Out is not a particularly scary movie. Chris is very different to your standard horror movie protagonist. He feels like a very capable and aware person who is not at all fooled by what is going on. Get Out is horror made for people who scream at the stupidity of the characters on screen. He isn’t about to fall for the typical horror movie stuff and that does somewhat detract from the scares.
There are a few noteworthy scenes that will likely unsettle you. There are also a couple of situations that Chris finds himself in that are legitimately terrifying. Get Out isn’t trying to be a traditional horror, though. It is trying to mix things up and give the viewer a different kind of experience. The situation that Chris goes through is terrifying in itself. The reality of his predicament, when it is revealed, is genuinely horrifying.
I did find Get Out to be somewhat predictable in parts. It falls into cliché at times and it can be easy to see what is coming next. This isn’t a huge problem but I think it does have to be said. The director’s tendency to lean towards satire and comedy may put a few people off. In my opinion, however, it never feels too out of place. The movie is genuinely funny at times which does take away from the horror. Chris’ friend Rod, played by Lil Rel Howery, is legitimately hilarious and steals every scene he is in. Most of his lines were improvised, as well, which makes it all the more impressive. I enjoyed the humour and think that the movie would lack character without it.
Is it a Knockout?
Get Out is a fantastic horror debut for director Jordan Peele. Featuring an incredible performance from Daniel Kaluuya, it takes the very real issue of systemic racism in middle class liberal society and turns it into horror nightmare fuel. Satirical, at times, in its approach, this is a movie that will make you laugh but also get in your head at the same time.
Stylishly shot and featuring a few truly iconic horror scenes, Get Out is packed with nods to classic horror. Peele is clearly a fan of the horror genre and his commitment to producing something fantastic really shows. Potentially uncomfortable for some, there are a lot of important examples of the everyday discrimination faced by minorities in western society that we can all learn from.
Get Out can be, at times, predictable and even a little cliched. Some may be put off by the humour and I imagine there are a fair few people who will dislike the direction the final third of the movie goes in, as well. Overall, however, it is a fantastic horror that deserves much of the hype it received and is well worth watching for all fans of horror.