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Courtesy of Universal Pictures

May 1, 2017

Don’t Make Me Get Out of Line

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Get Out, by Jordan Peele, is about a black man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who visits his white girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents’ house (think modern day Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner). What should we have expected from a director known for his comedic sketches? What is Get Out’s genre: horror, thriller, or horror-comedy? There are aspects that make it standard horror, but others include comedic facets and parts that stand out altogether from any horror genre. In the first ten or twenty minutes, the tone was all over the place. The first scene was a generic horror hook, as it didn’t particularly stand out as new or interesting, with a black man walking down a dark residential area and then getting jumped. This, however, is followed by a sequence that seems more like a romantic comedy or a thriller opening where the audience is simply introduced to the protagonists and their happy-go-lucky lives, as nothing remotely scary happens. After the initial hook, the style does seem to switch towards a more menacing angle. It took some time to finally transition to a demented Meet the Parents.

The actors are really believable, and the characters are well developed and more reminiscent of a horror cast. The servants in the house are creepy, and Rose’s mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), is also very uncanny. She’s just a woman with a teacup, but she utilizes hypnosis like a superpower. That motif is used a great deal throughout the film to a point where I was afraid I was going to get hypnotized. Spoiler: a moment later in the film, when Chris finally breaks the cup, was the most relieved I’ve ever felt from a broken teacup. The whole crowd went “Ooooooo.” The crowd was receptive in other parts, too. They clapped both when the villain was shot and when the credits rolled (something I haven’t seen in awhile).

Chris is a great character with a high tolerance for all of the crazy things that go on around him. This really goes to show how much he had to go through for him to snap at the end. There are many signs that Chris should leave, but he stays because of Rose. You find out that Chris lost his mother in a car accident and feels responsible for her death, as Rose attempts to help him deal with his loss. These dependencies, including smoking, make him vulnerable, and the family uses them to break him. The audience feels the struggle that the character is going through.

The horror-comedy aspects, which I didn’t expect but enjoyed, mostly revolved around Chris’s TSA friend, Rod (LilRey Howrey). Most of the comedy comes from how over-the-top Rod is in his disposition. For example, when creepy things start happening, and Chris tells Rod, Rod is convinced that Rose’s family takes black people and makes them their sex slaves. He believes in this so much that when he reports Chris missing, he makes it known to the police. There were other comedic moments, but when Rod was called you knew it was going to be some sort of a funny break. And, it wasn’t so over the top that the film couldn’t be taken seriously. However, typical horror films, like Halloween, let the suspense build without loosing focus at all. That’s why this film seems more like a horror-comedy than standard horror.

I was genuinely engaged and didn’t know where the story was headed, except for the obvious Wicker Man plot line where Rose lures the victims to the house. Even so, the reveal was done well when Rose switched from acting sweet to being an emotionless plotter. But, it is too ridiculous when Chris discovers the truth by peering into a closet and finding a shoebox containing a bunch of pictures with Rose and her other victims. Being enveloped in the mystery, though, is more of a thriller aspect, as horror mostly involves immersing the audience in a creepy atmosphere and not focusing so much on the why (like Michael Myers in Halloween).

Get Out has a great plot that involves racial issues, beginning with the man getting jumped. The racism in the film gets to uncomfortable levels at several points, as it turns out that (Spoilers) Chris was lured into the household to be auctioned off because of his physique. And, other black people were brought in as well because, according to the characters involved in the auction, “black is in style.” This becomes more meaningful at the end when they try to put a white guy’s brain into Chris’s as a sort of “Chris suit.” The director really seems to want to make a statement with these characters and what they go through, down to the depiction of the police.

The way that the subconscious is depicted is interesting. For example, in one scene with Chris and Missy conversing, Missy hypnotizes Chris to quite literally fall into his subconscious by being absorbed into his chair and falling into a black void. He slowly falls backwards and can only watch reality seemingly through a small screen. Even the hypnosis itself is serious, as instead of waving something in front of the main character, Missy scrapes the edges of a teacup in a circle. It catches the audience off guard, and it is a refreshing change from horror clichés. The hypnotized characters are also disturbing to watch as you see their true selves trying to emerge from their zombie-like state that the family controls.

The first real jump scare, the horror genre’s staple technique, is when Rose and Chris are driving to Rose’s parents’ house, and a deer is thrown across the road (at first, I thought it was a giant flying rabbit). One thing that was confusing for me was how the deer fit into the story line. The car hits the deer and kills it, reminding Chris of the hit-and-run that killed his mother. How did the deer fit into the family’s plan, though? Did it run on cue, or was it just an ominous deer? But then, a mounted deer head appears later when Chris is tied to a chair, and the family forces him to watch a video about their plans. And, they say hail to some name, or something of that nature, before the camera tilts up to the deer head. To me, it seemed like they were doing this for deer demons, which I’m pretty sure was not the intention.

So, this film gets a 4.5 out of 5 stars because of its interest, characters, acting, story, setup, and delivery. But, what is it? It’s definitely not standard horror, as the suspense doesn’t build up as much, and Chris doesn’t seem to be in danger for most of the film. And, it’s not horror-comedy either because of so many scenes that don’t add to the scary atmosphere, which that genre would keep consistent. It seems to be a thriller with horror elements in its set-up, heavy focus on mystery and suspenseful scenes, though not particularly terrifying. But, I don’t think it is supposed to be. Despite some of flaws, like deer demons, Get Out was smart and enjoyable. I also appreciate that the film tackled tough material. I’d recommend watching it even if you’re not into horror films, because the underlying commentary alone is worth your time.

Trip Hastings is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at gh357@cornell.edu.