Review: "Get Out" (2017)
Title: Get Out (2017) Genre: Horror Director: Jordan Peele Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Alison Williams Grade: A In a Nutshell:
Get Out brilliantly reinvents the classic horror film plot by operating upon a system of inversions. True to the formula, an outsider, Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya), is brought into a radically different cultural community where the insiders are first deceptively kind, then hostile, and finally murderous. However, the story deviates in that the monstrous other culture is not the standard collection of backwards bumpkins, scumbag criminals, or demonized minorities, but rather consists of privileged, wealthy white Americans, who would normally be the casualties of such films. And instead of a naïve white female as the hero, the protagonist is a black male who, because of real-world social conditions, is aware of his powerlessness from the get-go, a victim before the film has even started.
Genre films have always been a home for political cinema. Operating via allegory and metaphor, their exploration of hot, contemporary topics occurs beneath the mask of fantasy and fiction, providing a critical distance that can allow viewers the space to transcend inflexible real-world biases. Following this thematic tradition, writer-director Jordan Peele's Get Out is a masterful meditation on why black lives matter, wrapped in the costume of a commercial horror film.
Seduced by and trusting of his conventionally beautiful white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (played by Melissa Williams), Chris gets pulled into a world where his relationship and purpose are ultimately based on his participation in a covert system of slavery. The film presents an exclusive white community of body snatchers, where the very soul of the victim is repressed into a sunless void so that the spirit of the vampiric white oppressor can take ownership. It is a place where seemingly harmless objects such as a silver spoon stirring in a teacup (symbols of wealth and colonialism respectively) will sink black victims into a state of impotence and loss of control. And all this is accomplished by way of mad scientist techniques worthy of Jim Castle or Roger Corman, and which refer back to the days of Darwinian ethics, an age of so-called reason where eugenics in the name of science encouraged slavery and genocide.
And there are many other clever references. That Chris Washington is a street photographer is a raw reference to the contemporary trend of people of color documenting police abuses. The highlights and comic relief of the film comes from the skepticism of his best friend , Lil Rel Howery (played by Rod Williams), a TSA officer who speaks as the voice of the audience. Lil Rel brings home the hope that solidarity, healthy questioning, and learning to use the tools of an oppressive system against itself will prevail against tyranny. But these elements are hidden in the depths. On the surface, it is horror film fun at its finest: absurd and terrifying, with a delicious twist at the end (again with the inversions!). And, despite the heavy themes, it remains entertaining and scary throughout. To Go: See it in theaters.