A young African-American visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.
It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning for Best Original Screenplay. It was the hype-machine of the film world for much of 2017, lasting from its Feburary release through awards season. And without having seen it, Get Out was my dark-horse pick for winning Best Picture. Having finally seen it, I must say, somewhat surprisingly1, Get Out does live up to the extraordinary hype.
At its core, Get Out is imbued with unorthodoxy. It does fit in to well-established horror genre tropes, but does so with its own unique twists. I’m not the best expert to compare the differences, so I’ll just stick with describing what I like so much about Get Out specifically. Starting with just how incredibly scary this film is. This isn’t the aspect of the film that elevates it to the masterpiece that it is, but by golly was my heart racing the entire time. Within the first ten minutes I already had two jump-scare moments — such an unusual occurrence that I briefly paused the movie to grab a piece of paper and pen to keep tally. All told, I had six jump scares by the end which I’m going to say is about five more than whatever my previous record-holding film was.
Scares are great and is certainly the part of the film that got me hooked, but it’s not the part that got me to stay. That honor falls to the overall story and the shroud of mystery in which it unfolds. From the IMDb plot description (copied above), the basic premise can be condensed further to black guy spends weekend with white people. As Chris Washington’s (Daniel Kaluuya) friend Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) amusingly tells him, “Bad idea”. Like with Black Panther but even more so, Get Out deftly navigates and prompts discussions about race, but unlike T’Challa and co., there’s no avoiding it in Get Out. You can’t yadda yadda this and ignore the race element because “ooo look over here, superheroes”; race is a central story element and is in many ways part of the unorthodoxy I mentioned before and the appeal of the film.
It’s a combination of unequal parts of honesty, stereotypes, and fictionalization. Professional critics and other people can do a much better job than I could explaining the significance and impact of race here, but for my review I’ll use another “un”-word: uncomfortable. Not in the sense that you feel like you can watch or enjoy the film — quite the contrary as I hope I’ve been explaining so far. Uncomfortable in the sense that there’s ongoing tension, initiated by the jump scares and horror I mentioned at the start, and compounded by the social elements. Besides Chris and Rod, the black people in Get Out are weird, by design. When Chris goes to fist-bump Logan (Lakeith Stanfield) and he sticks his hand out for a regular handshake, that’s weird. The house- and grounds-keeper both have thousand-yard stares the entire time. As the audience we know something spooky is going on, but until we figure out what, we’re stuck in that uncomfortable position.
By the time you get to the end of the film and witness the grand reveal of what has been going on this entire time, you’re completely sucked in. It’s as if Missy Armitage’s (Catherine Keener) teacup is playing its tricks on the audience where with the tap of a spoon, suddenly everything is different. The characters, the location, the setup, the interactions — all of it comes together in such a brilliant way at the end. Part of it seems out of left field, as if it wouldn’t work, but it does. Both the story and the style really brings it back around to the very first scene: questions are answered and the scares return.
Hands down Get Out was an incredibly entertaining film, and I am very pleased it managed to live up to the hype (at least for me). Looking back at the Best Picture nominees now, Get Out would certainly rank among the top but I don’t think it would nab my personal favorite. Part of that is simply because while I was genuinely scared and Get Out is perhaps the best horror film I’ve seen, the genre isn’t my favorite. A Three Billboards or a Dunkirk just is more appealing to my tastes despite Get Out having a higher re-watchability, anytime-you-want factor. A bit hypocritcal, I know, but there you have it.
5 out of 5
Excessive hype, for prolonged durations, usually raises my expectations too high. ↩