As a person who is so scared of horror films that I couldn’t even watch the trailer for Stephen King’s “It,” I wasn’t originally planning to see the movie “Get Out.” However, even a year later, people are STILL talking about this buzzy horror film, likely due to the fact it tackles some heavier social issues amongst the scares. “Get Out” has picked up multiple Academy Awards nominations — including best picture — and, needless to say, my curiosity finally overcame my horror movie phobia, and I rented it this weekend.
Although “Get Out” is billed as a horror film, to me it felt more like a slow burn suspense/thriller. I watched it during the middle of the day with all the lights on just in case, but the film doesn’t really rely on a lot of “jump scares” or gory violence (there is some graphic content at the very end, but it didn’t feel gratuitous or over the top, at least to me). There are a few comedic moments that help break the tension, as well — probably due to writer/director Jordan Peele’s comedy background. However, be aware that this is still a scary movie, and probably the most chilling part is the real-life issues the film raises awareness about.
The film introduces us to a black photographer named Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya, who also scored a best actor nomination for his work in this film). His white girlfriend, Rose Armitage, wants him to meet her well-to-do family and spend some time at their countryside estate. Even though Rose’s parents — a neurosurgeon and a hypnotherapist — seem nice enough at first, you can tell right away that something feels “off.” You can’t really put your finger on it, but something’s not quite normal here. The family keeps subtly dropping racially-charged comments, making Chris feel increasingly uncomfortable. Then, things start taking a turn for the sinister; people behave more and more strangely, and Chris realizes the Armitage estate holds some very dark and horrifying secrets.
“Get Out” is an appropriately named film, because that’s the exact warning I kept wanting to shout at my TV while watching the movie. The film does a great job of helping you see and feel these events from Chris’ perspective; as soon as he walked through the front door and met Rose’s parents, I wanted to tell him “get out NOW — something’s not right here!” Yet you can tell he’s already trapped (first figuratively, then literally), forced to try to socialize with his girlfriend’s increasingly creepy family. As mentioned before, I appreciated that this movie was a slow burn, and gradually and carefully increased the feeling of dread, rather than relying on cheap “jump scares” or a bunch of gross/gory moments.
I’m still trying to decide how I felt about the film’s big twist — the revelation of the horrific mystery hidden in the Armitage estate. Part of me feels that it stretched plausibility a little too much in a film that otherwise felt pretty grounded. However, regardless of how you feel about that twist, the scariest part of the film is that many of the issues it addresses are all-too-real.
As much as I want to be an optimist and believe that racism is no longer a part of our culture, the sad fact is that yes, it is. There are still people out there who judge a person and treat them differently because of the color of their skin. Even people who see themselves as progressive and open-minded can still say and do subtly racist things, which is just as bad. It’s easy to call yourself an “ally” and be like, “Oh yeah, I’m socially aware.” But do we really understand or bother to take action? By telling the story from Chris’ perspective, “Get Out” forces us to question our own thoughts and actions and consider that some of us may enjoy a feeling of safety and security in our everyday lives that others don’t get to experience.
So, even if you don’t normally watch movies in the horror genre, I highly recommend “Get Out.” It’s not always an easy movie to watch, but that’s a good thing. Sometimes people need to feel a little uncomfortable in order for change to happen.