I’ll say it right now, I loved Get Out. It’s easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, even this early in March. It’s certainly one of the better and more original horror movies of recent memory, up there with the Babadook and It Follows. It’s maybe even better. I suspect that it’ll make my top 10 movies of 2017 easy.
But that’s exactly what you’d expect me to say isn’t it? Because that’s exactly what they would say now isn’t it?
They? Your sounding a little paranoid there Charlie…
Get Out has been coined by it’s writer and director Jordan Peele as a ‘social thriller’. It’s a horror movie that puts you in the shoes of a black person and conveys the feeling of paranoia you may have towards white people, no matter how kindly or progressive they appear on the outside. Though they may appear tolerant and welcoming towards you, there still lies a big divide between them and you, centuries of turbulent history in which those people wronged you at a fundamental level.
And they know it too.
So how can you be truly accepting of them, if they are not accepting of you?
Get Out’s is essentially Meet The Parents by way of the Stepford Wives.
Young interracial couple Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) have been going out for four (no, five) months and it is finally time for him to meet the folks back at the homestead out in rural upstate New York. Meeting the parents for the first time is already an awkward part of any young couple’s life. It’s a test of whether or not you will be accepted. Chris feels even more apprehensive because her parents don’t realise he’s black. It’s okay however, as his girlfriend affirms, because her parents are super liberal and progressive. In her words, her father would vote for Obama for a third term if he could.
Upon returning to the palatial house, Chris is introduced to mum and dad. At first Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford) seem perfectly nice. The father, in his own words, freely admits that he would indeed vote for Obama for a third term, if he could. The best president of his lifetime. Despite this something is clearly amiss. Chris is a keen eyed photographer by trade but you don’t need to possess this eye for detail to realise that things aren’t quite right back at the ranch. Whether it’s the black mould that is said to be consuming the basement deeming that area of the house strictly out of bounds, or the peculiar manner in which the parents’ black servants, Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) conduct themselves.
Silent, smiling and subservient as if… well they’re just not quite there…
It is often said that horror and comedy are very closely related. Get Out’s director and writer Jordan Peele has been one half of the American sketch duo Key & Peele. Many of their sketches tackle racial dilemmas in America with an observational socially satirical style. Last year the duo appeared together in Keanu, a comedy in which they had to rescue their kitten from some stereotypical black gangsters. The joke being they are both painfully middle class, but have to embed themselves within the street to save their cute kitten.
At times, Get Out, has sequences that feel as if they could have been the basis for one of their sketches but Peele obviously has a firm grasp and a passion for the genre which goes in a completely different direction. Whether it’s the slow ominous pan out from the house that carries elements of the American Gothic. There is the sense of the uncanny in characters – things just not sitting right. As night falls, things gets worse and Chris’s suspicions become validated, but with daylight there comes reason – is it all just in his head? Peele is able to effortlessly create an atmosphere of creeping dread.
Daniel Kaluuya is particularly excellent in the movie. You essentially see the movie from his side. You see how he shrugs off everyday racism as a man who has seen it all before. Towards the beginning, a cop pulls the couple over after they hit a deer, even though Chris wasn’t driving at the time of the accident the police officer requests to see his ID. This is all something he is used to and has grown to just accept and to get over with. As he talks with the parents he’s the model boyfriend but there is still a hint of suspicion in every line, a sideway glance here, an arched eyebrow there. He’s never at ease. At the same time as with most protagonists in these kinds of movies there exists a depth to his character, a childhood trauma that may be his downfall.
Whilst Mr Armitage conveys this friendly approachable state with goofy dad jokes, there is a hint of malice in Mrs Armitage’s veneer. Their creepy son (played by Caleb Landry Jones) is one step away from joining the lynch mob. Similarly, the servants, Marcus Henderson as the estate’s ranger has an Uncle Tom vibe about him and Betty Gabriel as the kindly silent house maid is particularly chilling at showing how things are definitely not right in the Armitage homestead. Whilst the atmosphere at the house is stifling, Lirel Howerly as Chris’s friend Rod in the TSA adds much comic relief as the voice of the audience and the film’s MVP.
The horror of Get Out works by poking at the fronts we put up in order to be accepted, this veneer starts to crack and when it falls away, we’re left with more difficult questions. The problems with racism have been a result of long held institutionalised beliefs that have wormed their way into the very fabric of society. It is only by action that these things become challenged.
I’d identify myself as a white liberal. It’s not been easy the last couple of month with everyone being so divided over certain political developments. 2016 may have been the year in which liberalism failed altogether – or at least got hacked. Generally, I like to think I’m a progressive individual who has an accepting attitude towards other people and cultures. But all to often, especially in recent months, I do feel us left wingers are stuck in something of an echo-chamber, we say a lot, but we don’t do alot, and therefore do we really mean what we are supposed to believe and champion? How liberal and accepting are we?
Essentially, I am exactly the kind of person, that Get Out wants you to feel uneasy with and deeply suspicious of. And let’s be clear, this movie will probably make my top 10 of the year. My selection, all mine. Films that I will choose as representing my own taste to fuel my own ego as a proper cinephile. Get Out is one of my favourites. It is mine now.
On another level, it’s rare for a movie to focus on the white liberal elite as the bad guys. White supremacists have always been an easy target as the bad guys in movies, as seen in last year’s Green Room. More than ever this vocal minority have been gaining more media attention in recent months due to the ugly resurgence of right wing attitudes in politics. Being liberal, I would say that of course as one of the loony left and media conspiracy.
From Nazis to hill-billy hicks, they’re cruel, racist, ignorant, probably inbred and usually impervious to other modes of thinking and reasoning. Which makes them dangerous and incapable of change or redemption. Thusly through the language of movies, it is acceptable that the poor old neo-nazi gets his head bashed in by the righteous hero, because ultimately their thoughts don’t matter to the advance of the human race. In the inter dimensional multiverse reality/fiction of cinema, we all go home believing justice has been done. Racist scum. Let’s go get a pizza! We all paid to see violence when we purchased our tickets, we may as well stage it as happening to the worst person imaginable, because we’re not sick are we? And at the end of the day, it’s only a movie, right?
In many movies, the narrative conventions and formulas only seek to represent our idealised self. This vision of our ideal self is easy for us to project and therefore control like an instagram feed. But it only adds to the echo chamber. We like to project a healthy more tolerant version of ourselves and society, and preach about a better more understanding tomorrow – a utopian Star Trek future where we all work together as a team seamlessly.
This is all fantastic, but from the black perspective as shown in Get Out, we can be as liberal as Ghandi of Christ himself, but there is still that suspicion. What if we white liberals, with all our blogs and social media declarations, all our talk, what if deep down we are no better than the white supremacists? What if deep down, we’re not as capable of being as socially progressive as we’d admit? What if deep down there still exists that old colonial spirit; that sense of entitlement over everyone and everything? The urge to conquer, to consume and re-appropriate, to make as one cohesive corporate whole? One happy family.
We want to include as many people as we can for that star trek future, but at what point does tolerance and inclusion of other cultures have you consuming them outright and stripping them completely of all their meaning – to become nothing more than a lesser reduction?
In the end, it’s a classical age old horror conceit that Get Out is channelling.
Wouldn’t it be simpler if you were us?
And you should always be wary of people who make you feel that.
Decent horror movies are a rare occurrence these days not to mention those that address pertinent questions of the day itself. It is for this reason I would highly recommend Get Out and you should definitely ‘get out’ to the cinema to watch it as soon as possible.
Ah I lost it there at the end there, didn’t I?