By Eashan Reddy Kotha
On the heels of Blumhouse Productions’ recent horror film “Split” comes “Get Out,” a debut directorial venture from Jordan Peele. While Peele has admitted his love for horror in interviews, he is best known for his sketches on the successful comedy series “Key and Peele.” After the final episode of the show aired, Peele set his sights on film. Rocking 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and earning an equally impressive A- CinemaScore is no small feat, but “Get Out” warrants the acclaim it’s been getting.
When making a film about a topic as immediate and real as race dynamics in America, there runs a risk of sounding too preachy or providing parallels that are too ham-fisted. Peele skillfully reconciles this fact in the way he approaches the subject; his jabs at so-called “liberal” views are subtle, and the result is a film that you won’t be able to watch the same way twice.
“Get Out” has been classified as a horror film, but works better as a psychological thriller. It centers on the awkward interactions between an African-American man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) “liberal” white family. Everything escalates as Chris uncovers the unusual behavior amongst the few Black people who work for the family.
In these terms, the film plays upon a classic horror archetype: An innocent guest slowly realizes that his hosts are possibly out for his very life. Peele takes this idea and creates a unique spin on it, providing a scary-yet-satirical edge to the film.
The awkward interactions between characters are central to the film. It is the family’s racial microaggressions that form the crux of the setup for the horrifying twist. When Chris meets Rose’s family, he chalks up their unusual behavior as normal for white people. They seem to be interested in his physique, his eye for photography and even his “fashion” sense; their praise of him is cringe-worthy.
The only thing that sticks out to him is how unnaturally the Black characters act. The groundskeeper and maid give uncanny smiles to him as he passes by and seem to be in trance.
Awkward as they may be, these unfortunate assumptions are what Peele expounds as part of the problem with race issues in the country today. Many are blissfully ignorant when they make microaggressions in everyday conversations. This willingness to turn a blind eye towards such microaggressions is what makes the twist more impactful. Chris’s ability to dismiss the slights on his character and positive stereotypes keep him from easily escaping. It becomes evident as the film continues that there is more to it than what he sees. By hiding everything in plain sight, Peele’s stance becomes clear — racism still exists, and no matter how subtle it is, it is something that must be actively fought against.
What pleasantly surprised me was how well done the technical aspects of the film were. The performances were all around superb. The film doesn’t need A-list actors to sell itself, and it provides plenty of opportunities for the leads to shine. There is clear attention to detail, and the soundtrack and atmosphere are well-constructed. Every scene, every bit of dialogue has a purpose. Even though some lines may seem trivial the first time around, on second watch, the aspects that eluded us the first time come to light. There is a tight progression of plot and little reliance on cheap or gimmicky scares. Peele is able to steadily grab the tension and dial it up all the way up until the release during the climax. The twist in the final act subverts expectations and it is very difficult to find a glaring weakness in the film.
Peele may have successfully conveyed a sense of inequality faced by today’s Black community through his film, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. If you watch “Get Out” and do enjoy it, take solace in the fact that Peele has stated in an interview with Business Insider that he plans on making four more social thrillers in the vein of “Get Out” — each dealing with a different “social demon.”