So, I finally saw Get Out. Took me long enough. Fortunately, I was still able to see it at the cinema, which I would 100% advise you to do – and quickly as it is set to leave UK cinemas by the end of this week.
I also am completely aware that the last thing the internet needs is another white girl’s opinion on Get Out, a film which talks explicitly about the insidious racism and duplicity of white people. Which is why I am going to keep this relatively short. Get Out is such an important film to discuss, but I am not ignorant enough to believe that I am the right person to facilitate these discussions. So as I said, this review/discussion will be short and sweet.
Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, a nice, normal every-man. He’s a photographer with a nice apartment, a nice girlfriend and nice dog. He leads a seemingly nice, normal and happy life. Or so we might think, if we hadn’t watched the pre-title sequence which depicts a young black man in a suburban neighbourhood being jumped by a stranger in a sports car. From there on, we are uneasy, waiting for the worst to happen.
Inevitably, it does. Chris and Rose (his white girlfriend, played by Allison Williams) take a trip up to the literal middle of nowhere to visit her parents in their grand, and very creepy, house which is miles away from anyone else. Secluded in the countryside, Chris is subjected to a weekend that begins with slightly ignorant racist comments and concludes in full blown violent racial warfare. A metaphor for the new Trump era? Maybe…
Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford are Missy and Dean, Rose’s parents who seem, on the whole, a charming albeit a little backwards. Dean repeatedly calls Chris ‘my man’, makes references to Obama and apologises for employing black workers because he ‘knows how it looks’. Honestly, he reminded me of most of the white people I know over the age of about 50. A little ignorant maybe, but harmless. Rose apologises for her parents, Chris shakes it off. But then things take a turn for the worse…
The strength of Get Out lies not only in it’s ability to be a successful horror film, but in its completeness. From the very first frame to the last, Peele knows what he wants to show us and the whole film is spent leading us down this terrifying path, unsure of exactly how deep the rabbit hole goes. He has spectacular control of the dialogue and the pacing – enabling Get Out to be authentically horrific rather than relying on cheap jump scares or bloodbaths. The monsters are not ghosts or ghouls, but rather your girlfriend’s parents or your favourite art buyer. Everyday people, in and around your lives. His command of humour punctuates the film in all the right places, allowing us a few well needed laughs. This is helped enormously by casting Lil Rel Howery as Chris’ best friend Rod, the actual hero of the film.
Peele is also masterful at utilising visual metaphors and motifs to help us identify with Chris’ paranoia throughout the film. Chris is a photographer, and thus is someone who is concerned with seeing and observing. In this way, we instinctively trust him when he notices the oddities in the Armitage house and at the party. In the same way, Chris uses what he knows to inadvertently break Lakeith’s hypnosis – by taking a photo of him. Chris also discovers Rose’s deception through the photographs in her bedroom which depict her previous boyfriends, all of whom are black, despite her telling him she had only ever date white men. Photography, cameras and the idea of observation (passive observation being the only thing the Armitage’s victims can do after surgery) are all constants throughout Get Out and serve to re-frame the narrative through Chris’ eyes.
Similarly, deers are a recurring motif throughout the film and one that gives a deeper gravity to Chris’ experiences. On the way to Rose’s parents, the two of them hit a deer with their car, killing it. Chris, seemingly unaware of his actions, follows the dying deer into the woodland and becomes emotional upon watching it’s distress. We are unsure of Chris’ motivations here, but it is revealed later in the film that Chris’ mother died in a hit and run. He is transfixed by the deer’s eyes, feeling some affinity for the animal. It’s inability to move also foreshadows the situation Chris finds himself in later in the film – paralysed and awaiting death.
More than this though, the deer also represent the idea of a trophy. Known for being a hunters prized kill, deers are commonly hung on living room walls and shown off to affluent peers. They are a trophy among the “hunting” class. Of course, the Armitage’s have their own deer head mounted inside their house. Chris discovers it in the latter part of the film, right before they are about to make a trophy out of him. The mounted deer stares down at him from across the room, and Chris knows that this is what he is about to become. A trophy body for white people – to be shown off and used to demonstrate their wealth and “skill”. In a similar vein, Chris is very much hunted by Rose who, as we see near the end of the film, stalks her pray before pursuing a relationship with them. Vague Visages also notes how ‘buck’ has, in the past, been used as a slur to describe black men who refused to bend to white authority – which certainly seems incredibly relevant in this context.
Watching Get Out, for me, was a measured exercise in being constantly uncomfortable. I was on the edge of my seat, always waiting for the inevitable to happen. I say for me because I am white, and I imagine my experience will differ from that to a POC. But hey, please do not take my word for it. Read Cassie Da Costa’s Feministing review, which sums it up better than I ever could.
And for goodness sake, go and see it…