FYI: This critique is split into two sections: a spoiler-free review followed by a deep-dive plot analysis, which does contain some spoilers. A spoiler warning will precede any sections which have spoilers.
Horror movies and I don’t normally get along. I empathize deeply with characters, I am VERY easily startled, and I kind of believe in ghosts (it is what it is). So when it comes to supernatural horror films with tons of jump scares, I. just. can’t. do it. I saw the trailer of Lights Out, and that one minute trailer ALONE scared the hell out of me so I didn’t bother with the other 60+ minutes of it. Sorry, not sorry. Hell, even regular, non-horror suspense thrillers make my heart race and leave me physically exhausted at the end of the film. (Surprisingly, extreme gore or psycho serial killers don’t have the same effect on me, and I still find myself excited to watch those films. Fear is a weird thing.)
When I heard about Get Out, I knew it was going to be a suspenseful, race-based horror. I am a huge a fan of Key and Peele and have enjoyed watching their work in the past, but I had never seen the more serious side of Jordan Peele, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I hadn’t seen anything like it, and I knew that my friends were just foaming at the mouth to talk about it — even ones who were openly as averse to horror films as I was. I decided, based on these initial reviews, that suffering through a scary film was possibly going to be worth it.
Pardon my French, but holy hell was this movie worth it.
Before I begin, let me get statement about race relations off my chest:
Corporate America, Hollywood, and people in power all claim to promote diversity by emphasizing blindness to race. However, emphasizing racial blindness also intentionally uses privilege to ignore problems that cannot be ignored by people of color.
Jordan Peele has given us this riveting masterpiece that makes palpable the feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty that can plague young people of color. Where Hollywood tends to keep silent, Peele pulls the curtains back and forces us to gaze upon scenes in all their awkward, cringeworthy glory. The film is very clearly not a comedy film, but Peele’s creative voice still comes through: it’s a self-aware and gripping all at the same time. It’s terrifying but still manages to elicit belly laughter from the audience.
All of the characters, whether they were main, supporting, or auxiliary, are expertly cast; and the acting, down to the facial idiosyncrasy, is completely on point. Daniel Kaluuya puts on a incredible performance as the protagonist Chris Washington – an amateur photographer living in Brooklyn who meets the parents of his Nice White Girlfriend (TM), Rose Armitage (played by Allison Williams). Every scene, line, and shot in the movie is expertly crafted, brings meaning to the film, and helps build the film to a terrifying and heart-racing crescendo.
Get Out is nuanced, intricate, and ominous from start to finish. I honestly couldn’t find a single thing wrong with the film, and I imagine that, when I watch this movie a second time, I will find so many new and interesting subtleties that I didn’t see the first time, which will only bring more richness and more character to an already magnificent film.
Before I give away the rest of the plot I will present my score: A+
Everyone needs to see this film. Everyone.
*Spoiler Alert* Deep-Dive Plot Analysis
What I loved most about Get Out was its ability to tell, through a lens of horror, a very honest and realistic perspective of racism. During the entire movie, we do not see a single overt act of racism. To many people, the idea of racism is an antiquated one – where someone chases a person of color with a pickaxe saying racial slurs and insults. But the reality of racism is that it is far more subtle and runs much deeper than any of us can imagine. What is most terrifying is not the certain knowledge that there’s a crazy racist in the family, but the persistent uncertainty of all the bad things that might happen because of a person’s race, and not knowing how bad things might get.
This movie is a long and detailed analogy of the reality of the person of color in America – the burden of truth rests in the hands of the person who is most affected and victimized. When we look at the other black characters and their idiosyncrasies, while, literally, they are an illustration of a black person who is physically unable to express their fear & their literal paralysis, they are also an allegory of disenfranchised people’s inability to communicate their needs and fears safely. Only when a “flash of light” acts to “wake them up” do we see them act like themselves for a moment. Each of these black characters is surrounded by a sea of “whiteness” which acts to suppress and silence their actual desires in favor of their placid contribution to the world.
In the case of this film, the contribution is literally their physical bodies as “host” to the whims and desires of a white person.
We harp a lot on cultural appropriation, but this film is about BODILY appropriation and a lack of bodily autonomy (something minority women in particular can relate to on a visceral level). There is such a vile and blatant disregard for the autonomy of black people in favor of using what is perceived to be most valuable about them. There’s such a deep sense of heartbreaking isolation and hopelessness that Chris experiences in the hypnosis chamber: no one, not even his girlfriend, is on his side, and he is forced to confront his aggressors and enemies by his own willpower, his own ingenuity, and with violent force. This is how it feels to fight a battle to which no one wants to pay attention.
Even at the end of the film, when he’s finally gotten out of the house, confronted all of the aggressors and even gotten a new peer on his side, a police car arrives, and we don’t feel relief. We know the trope that it looks like, and we know that, if events follow the sequence they so often follow in real life – Chris might die or go to jail, and — worse (and very often the reality), the actual criminal and racist goes scot-free.
This is what makes Get Out so compelling and so thought-provoking. Yes, it is insane that any white person wants to take any person and use that person’s body for their gain without that person’s permission. THAT IS NUTS. That is not realistic or okay. (As an aside, I don’t think I’ll ever want to be hypnotized in my life after this godforsaken movie). But what is most moving to me is, at the beginning of the film, what scares us most is what a crazy racist psycho family can do to an innocent man. At the end of the film, what scares us most is that a very well-meaning governmental body will prosecute the very person who needs us most. And when it doesn’t – when a friend is on his side, and the truth is revealed for what it is – that’s when finally we feel truly triumphant.