reviewed by Tom-Tom
In early 2017, Jordan Peele shocked everyone. Not only was he releasing his directorial debut film but it was to be a horror film. Everyone knows of Key & Peele, of course. Who hasn’t seen the various sketches in which Peele portrays former President Barack Obama with more vocal than visual accuracy along with partner Key “interpreting” what he “really” means to say to great peals of laughter from the audience?
Masters of comedy and horror do have common ground, though. They both require techniques of suspending the disbelief of the audience while guiding them along a yarn towards a hilarious punchline or a horrifying set piece. Lesser artists in either genre rely solely on throwaway gags or jump scares respectively. They’re ostensibly aiming for a cumulative effect that creates a whole which is greater than the terrible parts but the results are almost always just terrible.
Geniuses like Peale, however serve out their comedy and newly in “Get Out” horror like a Master Chef in seamless courses heading inexorably to an unguessable but formidable end. While there is a twist in this film, it is one which is fully deserved and earned in all the lovingly set up earlier scenes. The music is an important contributing factor, moody, cacophonic, and breathy with plucked and bowed strings eliciting the arrhythmic puttering of an old jalopy. The best horror gets you where you live like The Exorcist, The Shining and the recent Australian film The Babadook where the external threats come right into your home affecting those whom you love. You can run away from a vampire but not your family, not while there is a chance of saving them. Peale takes this one step further. His characters aren’t doing battle Deliverance style with backwoods hicks or racist goons like in The Green Room, they are battling the insurmountable, intrinsic American way of saying one thing, doing the (often exact) opposite, and believing and converting others to believing that the two are one and the same.
Chris (Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are two beautiful people who are dating and in love. They have a rhythm, they complete each other’s sentences. They are domestic. That time of all times has arrived where they are to meet her parents to which Chris nonchalantly hints his concerns whether her Grade A Whitebread parents know he is black and beautiful. She convinces him that though she hasn’t told them as such, that they will be totally cool with him whatever color as she has told him how crazy she is about him. For the first of several times, Chris’ eyes turn inwards at the something imperceptible to the viewer, as if gauging the risk and his possible losses in continuing the subject by offering evidence of past experiences in similar situations or whether to let her see what will inevitably happen on her own and let that be a bonding experience together. This is not a talky film but what it lacks in dialogue it really makes up for in mood, expressions, ambient music, and facial expressions. Thankfully, the entire cast is equal to the task of being in full face close-up letting micro-expressions indicate the whirring motors within, the struggle Chris as Everyman faces before us. He usually retreats to a “It’s fine. Everything’s fine. I’m good” safe area to his girlfriend’s not all too content relief.
I can imagine that Chris’ initial meeting with Rose’s family, the Armitages can be seen to have gone off incredibly well by folks with well-meaning hopes and intentions. But if you have been paying attention up to that point, you can sense unbidden a slew of loaded language and unsaid animosity the most obvious being the father’s comment about Chris and Rose hitting a deer on the long route out to the family home.
“You know what I say? I say one down, a couple hundred thousand to go….I’m telling you, I do not like the deer. I’m sick of it; they’re taking over. They’re like rats. They’re destroying the ecosystem. I see a dead deer on the side of the road and I think, “That’s a start.” This isn’t said with vitriol. It is exuded with the same magnanimousness in which he warmly greeted Chris and Rose. But why go to that length? I found the ambiguity of potential meaning terrifying. Equally chilling are the gardener and maid who are both African-American and speak like they are in a film from the 1940’s with eyes nearly popping out of their head with friendliness and a formality so forced, it simply increases the tension of the mood.
I can imagine people just watching this film and feeling bored and unable to understand the sudden change that emerges. This isn’t a movie to watch while texting on your phone or doing paperwork. If you aren’t drawn in, then your attention span needs some reconfiguring. Even upon rewatching it recently, the tension built up to breaking still makes me uneasy. Every careful chosen word and enunciation of thereof is premeditated. Get Out is an American Landmark film, a horror that you can’t flee from. Not if you live life with your eyes open. I’m almost afraid to watch it with my friends and have them say afterwards, “I don’t get it. How boring. That was stupid.” As much as Peale puts us in Chris’ shoes, you had better take something away from this movie.