One of the best things about critically acclaimed horror is that they usually have a clear message about society. One of the worst things about critically acclaimed horror is that they are usually rubbish – in my opinion, anyway.
Get Out is a racially motivated horror directed by Jordan Peele. Many reviews have sited Peele as a comedy director. A quick look on IMDB reiterated this with a bunch of American TV shows that I haven’t seen, so I can’t comment on his comedic ability. Other reviews have said that Get Out had elements of comedy to it, but I can’t say that I agree.
The plot follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who is meeting his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family for the first time. From what I had briefly read about the film having a clear message about racism and the loaded title, I assumed that this would be the source of conflict. Especially seeing as Chris is black and his girlfriend Rose is white.
I am not well versed on race. This is not to say that I am totally unaware that there is such a thing as racism, but I often worry. I worry that in trying to not offend that I will offend. Get Out played on that fear so brilliantly that towards the end, I wasn’t sure what was making me uncomfortable. Was the film making me uncomfortable? Or was I uncomfortable with how I felt watching it?
In the opening scenes, the couple hit a deer on route to Rose’s parents house. A white state trooper comes to deal with the situation. Once everything has been sorted out, the state trooper asks to see Chris’ identification. Rose protests, asking why he wants to see it. Chris is uncomfortable, the state trooper is uncomfortable, but Rose is extremely over-comfortable in her defence.
The whole scene creates internal conflict. Is Rose wrong to do that? Is Rose right to do that? How does Chris feel about this?
As Chris meets Rose’s parents, Peel forces us to watch the initial meeting in an extreme long-shot. We watch them embrace Chris from a distance and it all seems rather lovely. They don’t look at Chris as a black man, but as a potential member of the family – and rightly so.
Despite its short screen time, this shot was powerful and effective. It not only sets the tenure for the film but forms the backbone to Peel’s argument. It is easy to look at the issues surrounding racism from a distance and see a quaint picture. In the context of the film we see a white middle-class family, embracing a black man with no prejudice. We see what we would expect in 2017. When we take a closer look and begin to really get to know the family, we notice the cracks.
It isn’t until Chris is inside the house that the extreme close-ups and canted mid-shots come into play and the discomfort really begins. The family have black servants. The father is constantly referring to his love for Obama and calling Chris ‘my man’. They are serving iced tea on the lawn.
The dramatic and heavily weighted conclusion has an undertone of Rosemary’s Baby mixed with a teen slasher. While it potentially loses its potency in the final scenes, the message remains. There is a problem with how we deal, understand and interpret racism. Get Out is not only sending out an important ethos, but it stays true to its genre and provides genuine feelings of dread and discomfort.
It is the best socially motivated horror of 2017, so far…