Watching horror films requires a certain degree of masochism, if you think about it. Why would anyone want to experience pure fear and terror? Yet something about that sensation is so deliciously awful. The first horror movie was released in 1896, and we’ve been paying people to scare the crap out of us ever since. When I saw the trailer for Get Out I wasn’t sold, but eventually the collective groundswell of enthusiasm swayed me and I began to look forward to it. Comedian/actor Jordan Peele (Keanu) does not disappoint, crafting a smart, unsettling film that taps into an undercurrent of fear unique to the Black experience.
Get Out features a young interracial couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, Sicario) and Rose (Allison Williams, Girls). They are still in the honeymoon phase, and their differences haven’t caused any problems…yet. However, trouble looms when Rose decides it’s time to introduce Chris to her family, who is unaware that he is Black. Chris is sort of an everyman figure for Black audiences. His fears and vulnerabilities are our own. His experiences are relatable, both on a small and large scale. In one scene he is peppered with ignorant questions from Rose’s family and friends, as they expect him to speak on the entire Black experience rather than for himself. It’s clear that he is on display, regarded like an animal in a cage in one moment and like wild game in another. An insidious air of foreboding hangs over the film, creating a palpable sense of tension only heightened by the realism of Chris’ dread.
Why does this movie work? Quite frankly because White people can be scary. There are still parts of the country where the color of your skin can be a deadly liability. I know that Black men still have to be cognizant of their surroundings if they are in certain areas with a mate of a different race. I like that Get Out depicted many of the micro-aggressions with which we have to contend so often. Whenever Black folks attempt to engage in thoughtful discourse on such topics, we are often accused of playing the “race card,” and I think Peele deftly avoids this charge with tight, cogent writing, dramatizing these situations in a palatable yet jarring fashion. I hope that White audiences’ curiosity is piqued, as some are perhaps taken aback at the notion that they are the scary ones!
Horror isn’t my favorite genre, but good writing transcends category. Get Out didn’t resort to cheap thrills; instead Peele expertly tapped into the realism of his setting and subject matter. It reminded me of the classic horror films of the 70s and 80s, very atmospheric, complete with a perfectly disturbing score. At one point the film had notably garnered an astounding 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is well deserved. I say that not because Get Out is the Movie of the Year, but because it works extremely well as a cinematic experience, and its structure and pacing were flawless. I’ve been fortunate over the past several months to have seen many diverse representations of Black film, and I hope the trend continues. The strength of any great movie starts with the story, and Peele’s got a winner on his hands. Grade: A.