There’s a running joke that black people wouldn’t suffer the same peril as their white counterparts in a horror movie because they’d see the tells, grab a ticket on the closest NOPE train and be halfway to FUCKTHATVILLE before the first white cast member bites it. Hardy Har. Hilarious, right? Get Out is laughing too, but it isn’t at the absurdity of the joke – it’s at those making it.
Get Out is a 2017 racial satire horror film directed by Jordan Peele. I put some emphasis on the “racial satire” bit since there is a racial slant to it and there is some work that needs to be put into compartmentalizing some of the mundane elements from the more fantastical elements in terms of how each services the plot and what they could be saying to the audience.
The premise is simple enough – black man, white girlfriend and a (inevitably awkward) weekend at her parents. It’s all very reminiscent of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. One part “Catherine” and one part “You’re Next”, Get Out takes (comparatively) mundane adult anxieties and uses them as a prelude to a more fantastical threat. In Get Out’s case, casual racism (as well as the sensitivity it causes) is used to create the tells and form the core of the greater threat in this horror tale. But more impressively, it does so while being self aware enough to know you’re onto it and goes about its merry way smirking the whole time.
Get Out is a lovely little Kansas City Shuffle of a horror movie. Depending on how “woke” you are, you’ll see the tells and their real world parallels – but that’s about it. They’ll make you uneasy, but you won’t know what dark places the story is careening towards (or exactly who’s involved) because of them.
…..and yet, you do.
Remember me saying that Get Out laughs at you? Smirks the whole way? That its a Kansas City Shuffle? The movie periodically tells you some basic aspects of the underlying sinister plot. However, this knowledge is presented with the lack of reverence and received with all of the apathy and derision such brazen tales would realistically be received with. Fact is stranger than fiction, after all. But it’s in doing so, that the film demonstrates that being woke won’t save you (unease neither protects the main characters, nor does it forewarn the audience) and creates the unavoidable predator/ inevitable prey dynamic that creates that sense of danger horror thrives on.
Being Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out is a superb offering. As a racial satire, this very well could’ve been a preachy racism special or more fodder for internet flame wars (wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still viewed that way). Instead, it’s satire is more subdued, preying upon the character’s (and audience’s) racial attitudes to lead us around as it pleases.
But racial subtext aside, the actors all do a great job of selling their characters as the story needs. The Armitages are convincing “we’re trying our best be progressive, honest!” types (with the exception of Jeremy) and their over-zealousness (along with Jeremy) adds the awkwardness you’d expect in such an occasion.
A special nod goes to Daniel Kaluuya, Alison Williams and Milton Howert as the main couple and the funny, loyal best friend, respectively. Chris’s kind (though no naive) persona, Rose’s nurturing, protective nature and Rod’s humorous, matter-of-fact demeanor really carry the movie.
At times unnerving and, at other times humorous, Get Out takes modern horror sensibilities and marinates them in the modern American race relations zeitgeist. Some may find that off putting, but it’s progression and resolution make for a satisfying, thrilling experience.