Written & Directed by Jordan Peele
Get Out is a film by a horror fan. One that was certainly haunted by his muse that dismissed any notions of never seeing his script being shot and distributed. Jordan Peele: The Art of the Social Thriller, Peele's curated film series still currently an event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York invites viewers into his influences for this buzzed about horror film. As diverse as his choices are, its connective tissue is the unthinkable discomfort of space and relentless, interactive experiences with identity that puts some of us at a disadvantage. In The Silence Of The Lambs, Clarice Starling is surrounded by men who flirt, undermine, physically threaten and are threatened by her ambition and position. In Candyman, the title character is a mythical, looming force that is both suppressed while highly desired. After seeing Get Out, there is no doubt in my mind that each of these 'social thrillers' that Peele has chosen are the building blocks for Get Out as a post- Hope reminder. The film is engineered to operate all of those moving gears inside of your brain simultaneously, making it hard to define simply by being "good". It challenges the "why" behind that statement, and scares the living shit out of you while doing so.
The main character Chris is fragmented. His past trauma is used against him when it is made clear that it's a part of himself he desperately wants to detach from. And this psychological removal in his backstory is cleverly placed in the broader context as a gateway to manipulate his sense of safety so that others can swarm in and scavenge on his parts. Peele in all good sense blends our surface expectations with slightly unexpected, distinguishable texture. The most beautiful parts about Chris (which the camera's eye hints but never becomes exploitative) goes beyond the physical gaze and into a mind in the 21st century that is given room to blossom and prosper. He is a whole person that loves, fears, has quirks, sees and creates art. And this, plus Chris' blackness makes him a larger target; an alluring threat that is as disposable as the lives we tragically see hashtaged down our Twitter timelines.
Get Out effectively let's some of us off the hook a little in attempting to make sense for others, how nuanced, racist social interactions is a train that's never late. As a Black woman, I can now wave my animated hands towards Get Out if I hear so much as a sneezed "Post-Racial America" argument. How do the so-called, harmless comments along with contrived politeness come together to create a clearer picture of the reality that racism really isn't just all in someone's head? Further brilliant is the fact that Get Out examines the concept of power; who has it, and the fragile concept of superiority. The suggestion of the tone is that Chris is outnumbered, but not outwitted. What becomes riveting is, who triumphs, and regardless of who does, what comes next?
Peele and Get Out masterfully refutes any counter narrative to what people of color know to be their authentic experience in a world that fetishizes, is repulsed by, and uses them for personal gain by breaking down its parts. Making this story horror/thriller is an intentional assault that begs for our attention to the critical importance of the genre's intimate relationship with reality. I vehemently avoided any press regarding Get Out, wanting my first watch to be filled with as much innocence as possible. The headlines have made it clear; Peele wants us to talk. To discuss why Get Out elicits fear, discomfort, laughter, and maybe even anger. As we watch Chris confront pieces of himself he thought he left behind, we are left with his dreadful predicament as Peele slathers carefully paced suspense into the plot where we consistently find Chris so grippingly vulnerable at the worst (but maybe best) possible time.
Chris is given dimensions and a clear, satisfying arc that has left me both full and hungry for the leftovers Peele makes sure his feast provides. This includes the humor that could have easily disrupted the tone yet, as we expect from Peele, becomes seamless, much needed, and perfectly delivered by Chris' best friend Rod played by LilRel Howery. The humor relief is an element that, even though I've loved watching Key & Peele, I wasn't expecting. Humor is used as an additional tool of insight and makes watching with a group much more pleasurable than I realized.
Get Out is heavy, and I'm sure it will weigh on many others. Because it's one of those very special genre films that comes along and lives up to its promise in ways that hit each and every emotional branch coming down from its high. And it'll be with us years later as shattered pieces from its fall, making sense for the future of how we talk about racism, and the human monster that hides within it.