First-time director Jordan Peele’s Get Out paints an eerie picture of what it’s like to be Black in today’s America. Released while the country was still tense from the outcome of the 2016 election, Get Out provides audiences with much-needed laughter while also reminding us of social horrors that must be acknowledged. The film combines powerful performances, visuals, and metaphor that leave a lasting impression.
Director Jordan Peele was previously known for his and Keegan-Michael Key’s comedy show, Key and Peele (2012-2015). Consequently, his work on Get Out was surprising to many, as no one expected the hilarious Peele to suddenly release a gripping horror movie. As it turns out, audiences were much more pleased than surprised. Get Out was a huge hit in the box office, and also broke the record for the highest grossing writer-director debut based on an original screenplay, a title previously held by The Blair Witch Project (1999). Peele’s film was also impressively successful for being made on such a small budget (~$5 million).
Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington, a Black photographer living in New York with his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Chris agrees to take a weekend trip with Rose to her parents house, but is slightly dubious at the fact that Rose hasn’t told her parents that Chris is Black. Chris’s concerns about revealing their interracial relationship is the first of many references we see to common experiences of Black Americans. Rose tells him that her parents are no cause for concern, and the two begin their trip. On the car ride to the Armitage house, we see another parallel to the Black experience, as Rose and Chris are stopped by a police officer. Although Rose was driving, the officer still asks for Chris’s license. The tension in this scene is palpable and serves to remind viewers that seemingly innocent police confrontations are a very real issue for Black men in particular. Here, Rose defends her boyfriend and sends the officer away, though this proves to be a part of a premeditated plan.
Upon arriving at the Armitage House, Chris encounters Rose’s somewhat awkward yet friendly parents, Dean and Missy. Chris also meets their Black maid, Georgina, who he is slightly skeptical of due to her overtly polite nature. A number of events unfold that confirm Chris’s growing apprehension of the Armitages. Rose’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), makes family dinner uncomfortable with confrontational questions; Missy, a hypnotist, tries to help Chris quit smoking; Chris has an unnerving encounter with housemaid Georgina; and he is ogled by the Armitage’s guests who come over for a garden party. Chris sees another Black man at the event and attempts to connect with him, but the encounter doesn’t end well. Unfortunately Chris’s skepticism reaches its peak too late, and he is left to endure the Armitage’s master plan.
One of the most interesting aspects of this film is Peele’s captivating approach to comedy and horror. These two genres aren’t usually combined, but Peele’s masterful weaving creates an absorbing story. Small, sometimes imperceptible jokes permeate the script and atmosphere of many scenes in Get Out. Chris’s best friend, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), offers comedic relief as a TSA agent that Chris occasionally calls back in New York. Despite the levity, however, there is an unease that viewers can feel throughout the film. It takes Chris some time to realize that everyone around him is acting strangely for a very specific reason.
In addition to a clever screenplay, Peele also relies heavily on visuals to tell the story of Get Out. Toby Oliver (Insidious: The Last Key, Happy Death Day) as director of photography offers crisp images that give the Armitage house a warm ambience with an unnerving undercurrent. Visuals are also used metaphorically. We learn early on that Chris is a photographer, and are reminded of this fact when we see that he always seems to keep his camera nearby. This hobby later turns out to be a crucial aspect of the film. Kaluuya’s performance also contributes to the visual metaphor, as he noticeably uses his eyes to portray emotion. The most popular image from the movie itself seems to be of Kaluuya sitting in a chair, tears streaming from his eyes that are open wide in fear.
Peele’s Get Out made such a large impact that it received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 2018 Oscars, where it was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Kaluuya), and Best Director. This film is groundbreaking in its combination of genres; Peele accurately deems it a “social thriller.” Not only is Get Out unafraid to address the reality of being Black in today’s America, it also bravely suggests the idea that society alone is terrifying enough to be the malevolent force in a horror movie.
[My review of Jordan Peele's 2017 film Get Out as an assignment for my Intro to Film Art course]
Image courtesy of IMDb