It’s rare that a movie surrounded with constant praise and attention lives up to the hype when I watch it. Expectations determine enjoyment when it comes to consuming media and last week when I waddled into the afternoon showing of Get Out, my expectations were higher than the deductible on my mandatory health insurance.
I believe my recent attraction towards horror movies is a result of two things; 1). They are easy to understand and dissect and 2). They cleanse my viewing “pallet” or reset the taste buds of my eyes. Analyzing movies is fun and gives me a false sense of control and competency in a life that I am consistently reminded I have neither. Horror movies are often not subtle or “artistic” making them easy targets for me to scoff and receive a false sense of superiority. Watching a corny horror movie makes the critically acclaimed work of art such as Sicario, Silence, or the Neon Demon more impressive and appreciated. Horror movies bring a balance and create a needed equilibrium in a movie library.
Get Out stands out in its genre due to its social message and underlying themes. It is still about 80% dumb horror movie (jump scares, predictable plot twists, limited set locations, gore, etc…) while the 20% of originality and uniqueness propels it away from its counterparts. Directed and written by Jordan Peele (Key & Peele, Keanu) staring Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario), Allison Williams (Girls), with supporting actors Bradley Whitford (Happy Gilmore, The Cabin in the Woods), Catherine Keener (The 40 year-old Virgin), and Rel Howery, this movie explores liberal racism.
A horror movie that has liberal racism as its main plot advancement is not something I ever thought would be made or had any idea could be made. I live in a country where an ignorant old egotistical man spouted several racist remarks in a successful presidential campaign. That racism is obvious and easy to identify. Get Out doesn’t reference obvious racism, it portrays racism that takes a different form in the mind of a progressive millennial white guy who would have voted for Obama a third time if he could.
The most compelling aspects of this movie involve spoilers so read on at your own risk.
Eyes play the biggest role in Get Out. The main character’s, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), most recognizable feature is his large eyes. He was brought to Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) by his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to be hypnotized and turned into a meat vehicle for Jim (Stephen Root), a blind art dealer. Chris was chosen to be the surrogate for Jim because of his large eyes and his photography background. Chris has a great eye for photography (known for taking pictures that instill sadness) and had his camera throughout the movie taking pictures.
To add to the photography angle, Chris was able to break the hypnosis of other black surrogates by taking a picture with flash on his phone. His best skill, taking pictures, was the secret weapon to escaping. His professional photos are known for portraying sadness, he has an eye for sadness and was able to see the deep sadness in the eyes of the black surrogates.
Every commercial for Get Out had the horrifying image of Chris staring distressed into the camera with his eyes wide open crying. Tears and staring into a characters eyes is the driving characterization technique in this movie. When under hypnosis, the conscious of the person stays in the sunken place, completely conscious and aware but able to control anything. They are present in their body while it is being used by someone else. That helplessness is what caused the scared tears in Chris and is a metaphor for black people in American society. They are aware of the injustices they suffer but are helpless to stop them. They are being controlled by powerful white people.
As Dean removed the top of Jim’s skill to expose his brain, Peele focused the camera on the face of Dean who had an eye guard on. A reflection of bloody procedure could be seen over each eye of Dean. He looked extremely heartless and sinister in this scene and looking into his eyes only revealed an unethical brain operation.
The scene where Rose clips the deer with her car that jumped across the road signified the end of the exposition and the beginning of the second act. Chris approached the injured deer (a female doe representing his mom) and listened to its terrifying death rattle before it died. It was later revealed in the movie that his mother died after getting hit by a car and bled out from her injuries in the time after the accident. Chris was just a kid watching TV and was too scared to go outside and investigate the commotion. If he went outside he would have seen his mother and most likely saved her life by getting her the timely help she needed. This guilt has followed Chris his whole life and he was clearly reminded of the incident as he watched the deer die.
In the final act of the movie, Chris decided to not watch TV that was used to hypnotize him and take action. He fought back. He used stuffing from his chair to block his ears and to prevent the hypnosis. He beat incapacitated Jeremy with a yellow pool ball and used the mounted deer head with large antlers above the TV (a male deer, representing himself) to stab and kill Dean.
I read and heard Get Out described as a Horror Comedy by many people. This movie has humorous scenes but they are limited and scattered throughout the length of the movie. They aren’t present enough to add comedy to the genre description. Get Out is a well-paced movie and uses comedy as a relief to the heavy subject matter. All of the scenes with comedy involve the best friend of Chris, Rod (Rel Howery), who serves as a confidant and ultimately a savior. Rod the funny TSA agent is the text-book comic relief character that is present in most horror movies.
Get out is not free of bummers. It had a modest budget of $4.5 million and I believe that Microsoft funded at least half of that. Microsoft Surface pro’s and phones were everywhere. The Microsoft logo received more face time than several supporting characters and served as an unneeded distraction. Towards the end of the movie when Rose was searching the internet, she stared at a Bing search bar for way too long revealing that Microsoft paid for at least a few seconds of Bing face time. Fuck product placement.
Most horror movies (actually most movies in general) require little thought and brain activity to understand what is going on. They are free of subtlety and require zero critical thinking to understand. Get Out is refreshing because it has those underlying themes and subtleties that the viewer needs to pick up on while watching to get the full experience. When Chris was realizing that he was set up by Dean and Missy who have hypnotized their entire family, Peele included flash backs to previous scenes in the movie to remind the viewer of the clues they should have noticed earlier. I hate it when directors do this. Please give the viewer the benefit of the doubt and assume they pick up on the subtle references. I don’t need a flash backs to a family member saying “black is in fashion” or “you have great genetics.” The hand holding dampers the effect of the plot twist and the fun in figuring it out individually.
As Chris was strangling Rose a cop car pulled up to the scene. I assumed the cop that approached the scene was the cop who gave Rose and Chris a hard time at the scene of the deer accident. The officer was clearly suspicious of Chris as he was traveling with a white woman and Rose lashed out at the officer early in the movie. If that same officer pulled up at the end of the movie and saw Chris strangling Rose surrounded by dead bodies, it would have confirmed his earlier suspicions and would have stopped Chris.
Instead Rod was in the cop car (it is a mystery to how he obtain the car as the officers laughed is his faced when he went to them for help). The two drove off and Chris survived the ordeal.
This ending didn’t feel right. As a white guy I am in no position to suggest what would have brought a racism story to a better conclusion, but I felt Chris should have been either killed or arrested by the officer who confronted him earlier in the movie. It would have further exposed the awful realities of racism and ended in typical horror movie fashion; tragically.
The jump scares, sexy actors, comedy, and gore are all present making Get Out a horror movie but the imagery and subtle themes are what make it genre shifting. Social horror is a genre that I hope Peele explores further.