Get Out is a Sensational Horror Social Commentary
Jordan Peele is known almost exclusively for his comedy and sketch work. From starting on Mad TV and then jumping into Key & Peele on Comedy Central with his cohort Keegan-Michael Key, Peele has made a name for himself in the comedy world. So, what’s the natural next step for a sketch comedy super-giant? Well, a horror film that deals directly with the subject of racism in the modern world, obviously.
Get Out was one of the first major surprise films of 2017. With a budget of 5 million dollars, it skyrocketed on its opening weekend, earning more than 33 million in the US alone. The film has also broken a record, as Jordan Peele has become the first black writer/director to create a debut feature film grossing more than 100 million dollars at box office. Just for some critical perspective as well, Get Out currently sits at a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, and deserves a 100%. This film is unique, beautiful, horrific, discomforting, original, and so much more, all wrapped together. Yes, I’m aware that unique and original are similar qualifiers, but I believe they both needed to be used when describing this film.
The eeriness in Get Out is built on its use of orchestral sounds and well-timed visuals
Get Out’s social commentary on racism is at the heart of its script. Its importance in modern America is quintessential. But Get Out is not some “preachy” film about equality. Its beautiful, sensitive touch in the horror genre leads the film to becoming so much more than what it set out to be. Get Out is a movie with such a simple, realistic plot that immediately grows and branches out into something much more abnormal. It delves into the study of racism, hypnosis, and class distinction, and all the while it keeps you intrigued with every scene. This is the type of film that easily could have fallen flat on its face had it been ruined by obtrusive pacing, but Peele knew what he wanted to create with his directorial debut. He knew exactly what the film needed to be and exactly what areas it had to stay away from.
The eeriness in Get Out is built on its use of orchestral sounds and well-timed visuals. It builds and builds and never lets you down. The film teeters beautifully on letting the audience into the uncomfortable situation that’s posed to our main character, portrayed wonderfully by Daniel Kaluuya, but also completely keeps us on the outskirts depending on your race. As a white man, I felt incredibly uncomfortable in so many moments where Chris (Kaluuya) is introduced to his white girlfriend’s family. I was squirming in my seat, sweating at the palms, and that’s exactly what Jordan Peele wanted from me. Get Out does such a terrific job opening the window into the racial struggles that black men and women go through when surrounded by people that make them feel out of their element. Kaluuya’s character, Chris Washington, sets the tone for the film and immediately lets us know what we’re getting into. His questioning of his girlfriend, Rose, played by Allison Williams, helps guide us through what he’s expecting of the upcoming weekend. I don’t want to use the phrase “understand” because as a white man, I will never understand that discomfort or that nervousness. But Peele does a perfect job taking us into that situation and refusing to hold our hand.
We never know exactly where that next door will lead us, but we open it without any hesitation because we understand the importance of the journey.
The Armitage family are eerie from the get-go, and their build into a far more bizarre and dangerous outlet is well-placed and well-timed. I believe this is the point in which Peele has really shown his true grit as a director. The pacing of his film, the timing, and the subtlety is astounding in a genre that has been riddled with issues in all those areas for years. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, as Rose’s parents, help build the tension between their family and Chris beautifully. We know from watching the trailers that something will go terribly wrong, but we don’t know exactly what and that’s where Daniel Kaluuya’s reactions help build this film from the ground up. The cast is stellar, each one giving the other something excellent to respond to. The dialogue of Peele’s script is unnerving, in a way that makes the audience feel they are attending an awkward barbeque themselves.
This awkwardness is broken up beautifully thanks to Chris Washington’s best friend and TSA Agent, Rod Williams. Rod, played by LilRey Howery, is the hero of the film that we all want. Peele does something very interesting throughout the film with Rod, the somewhat sidekick of our protagonist. He becomes our protagonist for a moment in the film. Jordan Peele flips the path of the film on its side and leaves the audience wondering what’s happening to the main character. He brings us into Rod’s world where we suddenly don’t know what’s going on and we only want to help Chris, to make sure he’s okay. Peele’s use of diversion in this aspect really helps turn the film into something the audience doesn’t understand. We never know exactly where that next door will lead us, but we open it without any hesitation because we understand the importance of the journey.
[Horror] can be used to look into the eyes of our society and realize where the true fear is coming from.
Without giving anything away, there’s only one issue I held with the film and that’s what the Armitage family were truly attempting to accomplish. The films realism is grounded, and understood. But it turns itself somewhat towards the supernatural in the end which just had me taken back a bit. I understood the importance of going there and the reasoning for doing that; it just felt like the film was asking me to reach a little further than I felt comfortable with. But in a film that bashes the word “comfort” over the head with a hammer, what more can I ask for?
Jordan Peele has mastered something no one knew he ever wanted to tackle. His script holds an amazing strength. His direction blazes a new path for his career. His understanding of the genre helped build a film on multiple levels. Get Out is one of the best films of 2017, and yes, we’re only in mid-March. You’ll feel fear, you’ll feel discomfort, you’ll feel everything you don’t want to but everything you need to. Get Out proves that horror doesn’t need to be stagnant or recycled. It can be a new take on a stale breed. It can become something so much more than a jump scare or a gory death scene. It can be used to look into the eyes of our society and realize where the true fear is coming from.