Get Out, the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, tells the conceptual horror of Chris, a black man who, on visiting his white girlfriend’s family estate, begins to suspect he might be in the worst place on Earth. Lee reviews.
Hitchcock taught us “there is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it,” which goes partway to explaining why mystery and horror works so well – what’s more engrossing than the fear that there might not be a bang at all? The difficulty is all in the pacing for filmmakers; how much waiting is too much? How many conspiracies can you weave into the viewer’s thoughts before they feel overloaded, bored or complacent? If there’s a set number, director Jordan Peele has clearly worked it out, and from it crafted a horror movie that feels as precise a juggling act as any book in a bank.
Get Out opens with a prologue that may rightfully be forgotten by viewers even as the film goes on due to its almost non-sequitur nature, but there’s an establishment of tone here that’s vital: realist horror sensibilities, light comedy, and a touch of the absurd. It’s a blend that stays with the narrative throughout the entirety of the runtime, and it’s an inviting one, because it makes its various explorations of racism all the more unreasonable. Why should we even have a film that explores racism in the year 2017? Look at how abstract and Machiavellian the white people have to be for slavery to still exist in this century, yet it still strikes a chord of understanding. Why are we not better yet?
It’s entertaining in all the right ways, thanks mostly to a tight script and editing work that knows when to let the audience catch their breath and explore options. It’s a mystery after all, and with Chris as our surrogate we experience each new suspect and detail as quickly as he does, and pine for a moment to collect our thoughts as desperately as he craves his midnight cigarette. The juggling act never leaves us waiting too long however; for each question raised, another is at least part-way answered to make space for new information. It’s impressive work, and strings us along near-flawlessly, with but one real admission: predictability.
It’s not a deal-breaker in any regard, but often your first suspicion, no matter how absurd, will be the correct suspicion. This works in the nature of critical fiction; after all, we do want the masses to feel invested in every element of the story because, if something feels off, it’s because they have to learn something, and the pool they’ll be learning in is one filled with racial misunderstandings and empathy. But with the inquisitive nature of the piece, there’s always the possibility to go deeper and deeper, and some will feel the narrative comes up short when the only real twist is, at the very end, it doesn’t feel as bleak as we really expect it to feel (even when it makes the right call).
That’s not to take away from the fact the film does a great job evoking the tenants of racial discrimination and incorporating them into a story that actually fits the subject matter in a not-too-traditional way. The rationale of the core evil driving the film is as flimsy as racism itself, and the imagery used to interpret the black experience (notably in America but not necessarily confined there) strikes all the right chords and does more than enough through exploration of its many facets to differentiate itself from just plain white hate.
It’s not the most revelatory experience you’ll have at the cinema in 2017, but it is certainly an accessible one that delivers blow after blow while keeping you hooked for more, and the sheer concept will be enough to make this a fun rewatch once the context hype fades away. Popcorn entertainment with heart; a stellar debut.