Months ago when the first trailer for Get Out was released I was intrigued, not because it looked like a solid horror movie but because of what the horror movie had decided to use as its subject:
Wow, really? That's an interesting idea. There's a bunch of different ways that you could make that horror movie, some of which you could argue have already been done if we're counting slavery dramas. So I was going to see it, but I didn't know how much of a hurry I would be in since I can count on one hand the number of horror movies that I actually like at all or enjoy.
Then ironically enough, THIS got my attention:
I've never seen that before. Ever. I know I have railed against Rotten Tomatoes many times because of the whole slog with comic book movies, but I couldn't ignore this. A horror movie about racism getting a perfect score with critics reviews? Written and directed by Jordan Peele, a black director and comedian? Featuring a fairly unknown young black actor in the lead? Now I HAD to see it as soon as possible, and I did.
I can honestly say that Get Out is without question one of the most brilliantly creepy and terrifying movies about racism that you will ever see in your life...especially if you are black. That doesn't mean at all that white people or other ethnicities shouldn't see it because there's nothing there for them. On the contrary, this movie provides something for EVERYONE to see whether you are looking for a blunt commentary on race relations in society today or if you are just looking to be appropriately creeped out and frightened by a good old fashioned horror movie.
One of the strongest points of the movie is the acting of Daniel Kaluuya, who plays the main character of Chris Washington. Before this, Kaluuya was in Sicario and Kick-Ass 2 as well as an episode of the science fiction drama Black Mirror, but this is his first starring role in a movie and considering the weight of what he had to do emotionally in this role, it's a fantastic performance. Chris is currently dating Rose Armitage, played by Allison Williams and the two are headed to her family's house in the country for the weekend. It will be the first time that Rose's parents are introduced to Chris and they are unaware that he is black, but Rose insists that it won't be a problem.
At first, true to form it really isn't a problem. In fact Rose's parents, played by Bradley Whitfield and Catherine Keener, almost try too hard to be PC and overly-sympathetic to Chris' "blackness," much to Rose's embarrassment. What makes the setting weird though is the Armitage family's pair of workers: a maid name Georgina played by Betty Gabriel and a groundskeeper known as Walter, played by Marcus Henderson. Something is just not right with the both of them and Chris surely knows it, but he can't put his finger on exactly what it is about their creepy behavior that is completely off.
Things get even stranger for Chris when the mother Missy, Keener's character offers her psychiatric expertise to help cure him of his smoking habit. That expertise is in the form of hypnosis that has a completely disabling affect on Chris using one of the most diabolically clever triggers I can think of in a movie like this that I won't totally reveal, but barely any digging on the Internet will provide plenty of memes for it.
Now Chris is certain that something is wrong with Rose's family, right down to Caleb Landry-Jones' downright unsettling take as Rose's brother Jeremy, who seems just a little too drunk and unhinged for everyone involved, and a weekend party with a group of older white people that are all just too casual with their racism asking every blithely offensive question you can think of from "does the term African-American help or hurt you?" to "how good are you at sports?" Seriously, almost every cliched question a black person has been asked in their lives with regard to their race is used here, short of "May I touch your hair?" which I have a feeling is probably in a deleted scene somewhere.
The real challenge that was ahead for Kaluuya in this movie was his ability as a relative unknown to make the audience care about what happens to him outside of the fact that he is black. It couldn't simply be that his character was just getting racially tormented by white people completely out of touch with reality, he had to be a likable person that the audience could relate to and that's what he manages to do from the start. We don't get a full on glimpse into his private or personal life save for the images we briefly see in his apartment at the beginning and two other crucial details: his feelings about the death of his mother and his hilarious friend Rod Williams, played by LilRel Howery, who remains Chris' "voice of reason" and connection to the real world throughout the movie. Most of the comedy in this movie comes from his character and it's so well-balanced with the tension and thrills of the rest of the film that it's almost perfect. When you need a laugh to keep the movie from getting "too heavy" that's where it comes in and it's on cue in a strong way here.
As fantastic as Kaluuya was, I don't want to forget the rest of the spectacular cast who all played their roles deliciously well, starting with Keener who most people will know from 40-Year Old Virgin or Captain Phillips. She is a cold, creepy matriarch in this movie and you spend a decent amount of time trying to make sure you know where the hell she is in the house, because she presents the biggest threat to Chris out of anyone most of the time. Bradley Whitfield plays the clean cut, midlife crisis suffering patriarch in strong support as well and Allison Williams has certainly made an intriguing character for herself with Rose that people won't soon forget at all.
But I have to give great credit to Betty Gabriel and her role as Georgina, particularly for one scene in which she is having a conversation with Chris concerning his phone and it's one of the strongest instances midway through the movie about what exactly is going on with the Armitage family and their terrifyingly misaligned friends. The camera is in a tight close up shot, getting a full view of the emotions on her face as she lets a tear escape from her eye while trying to explain to Chris why his cell phone was dead and it's a hauntingly beautiful bit of foreshadowing for the rest of the movie and the social implications to come.
Make no mistake though, Get Out is dealing with some heavy ideas here and doesn't mince many words in making it clear. It's not simply a case of racism and prejudice being dealt with in uncomfortable dialogue scenes, the movie digs right into cultural appropriation, slavery, institutionalized racism and class warfare over the course of almost two hours and does so with the expert timing, pacing and visual effectiveness that a good horror movie should have. Peele and his director of photography Toby Oliver are so deliberate with every frame on screen that nothing should be regarded as a mistake or a coincidence. These guys know how to inspire tension, dread and impending doom, not to mention abject creepiness in general with every image captured on the camera, a digital Arri Alexa Mini I might add for anyone curious about the film vs. digital discussion.
Assisting Peele and Oliver every step of the way is composer Michael Abels making his feature film scoring debut on Get Out. Acclaimed for his orchestral work and his ability to adapt popular elements of music into an orchestral form, he does a fantastic job of capturing the dark and devious underbelly of the movie throughout, hitting all the right chords and emotional beats necessary for what classic horror should sound and feel like. This movie isn't a true throwback but it has that feeling because it diverts away from the standard gory slasher routine that we've come to expect with the horror genre and presents a more psychological approach with a strong hint of science fiction involved at the right time. I urge you to check the movie out to see what it is, but it's definitely crazy, controversial and contextually appropriate.
About that controversy......the film has of course, due to its plot and character manifestations been accused by some, I stress SOME as being horribly racist propaganda against white people. All I have to say to that is while it doesn't exactly do the concept of interracial relationships a lot of favors, a lot of what this movie does is flip the conventional wisdom around for the horror movie genre, which after so many decades of one way is actually refreshing to see done another way and it works incredibly well......IF you have an open mind for it. For my own personal experience, my theater was majority white when I saw it and I saw no one leave before the movie was over, so either all of them were just staying to get their money's worth or most of them liked it on some level or another. I wouldn't call it a conservative movie by any means though, except maybe with its reported $4.5 million budget.
At the end of the day despite predictable controversy, Get Out must be doing something right to earn these opening weekend numbers:
That's absolutely phenomenal to have a movie make back almost eight times its budget in one weekend along with UNIVERSAL critical acclaim, which is unheard of. It's all even more impressive considering that its Jordan Peele's directorial debut. It's truly a remarkable job done by him and his crew on what is a socially relevant indie horror flick.
The bottom line is that Get Out is a fantastically creepy and expertly constructed film that should already earn its place among modern indie and horror film classics. Go open your mind and see it for sure, but prepare to be creeped out, have a few laughs here and there, experience a few twists and understand that you will never, ever, ever look at a cup of tea the same way again.
GET OUT - 5 out of 5 stars - In theaters nationwide as of February 24th.