By now most of you have probably heard about Jordan Peele’s horror debut “Get Out.” You’ve probably heard that it is funny, bone-chilling, subversive and incredibly clever. I am here to tell you that it lives up to the hype. From the opening scene, which features a violent kidnapping, to the minute the credits rolled, I was totally captivated by this movie. It was truly one of the best theater experiences I’ve had in years.
For those who don’t know, “Get Out” follows a young black American, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), as he goes to his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) parents’ country house for the first time. Once there, things quickly escalate from the expected awkwardness of meeting your significant other’s family for the first time to moments of dread to terrifying events that made this moviegoer rock back and forth in her seat. It’s like if the classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was a psychological thriller.
While the movie is scary, it’s not scary in the blood-and-gore way upon which so many in the genre capitalize. Instead, ideas that are just realistic enough—think hypnosis, brain surgery and a secret dungeon—are what deliver true fright. The movie plays on the very real, primal fear all humans have of others being in control of their own bodies. Additionally, like a truly great horror movie, little things, like a teacup, a bowl of Froot Loops and the search engine Bing, become sinister. At the same time, the movie delivers the clever lines and laughs I would expect from one-half of “Key and Peele.”
In addition to “Get Out” just being a great freaking movie, the film has also made waves for its cerebral, biting political message. It is, after all, about the way black people are treated in contemporary American society. It takes aim not at the outright racists, but at the “woke” liberals, the ones who emphasize how important it is to experience other cultures and who would vote for Obama a third time if they could.
What’s terrifying in the movie isn’t that you don’t see the villain coming but that the protagonist has been conditioned to ignore the warning signs around him. One scene in particular that depicts this is the much-talked-about dinner party scene. White people walk up to Chris and make cringeworthy but expected remarks: “You must be a great athlete.” “Black skin is considered more attractive now.” “You play golf? I know Tiger.” “Is the sex better?” Chris laughs uncomfortably, but accepts these remarks as if he hears them all the time and, as a black man, he likely does.
Chris is paranoid about all the weirdness going on, but can’t voice it because he has been told his entire life that he is being sensitive or crying wolf at racism. As the movie progresses, Peele slowly piles on these awkward encounters into horror movie moments. These microaggressions, these tiny remarks that white people make to remind a black person that he is different from them.
Additionally, the film created great characters. Allison Williams’s Rose is chilling as the wide-eyed, passive girlfriend. She is the character that I, as a white viewer, related to. She talks back to a cop who is guilty of racial-profiling and rolls her eyes at her parents’ uncomfortable, tone-deaf remarks but is still complacent in their racism. As Chris becomes more desperate, she stands to the side. Her character shows that being an ally isn’t enough, that that’s just another way to trap somebody.
I’m white, and no matter how much I try to sympathize, I can never totally understand what it’s like to be a black person who deals with different forms of racism. I can, though, appreciate a funny, scary, well-made movie that portrays the most terrifying parts of this experience. By all accounts, “Get Out” is this movie.
Cover photo courtesy of “The Los Angeles Times.”