By Ali Coad, Senior Editor
This review does NOT contain spoilers. This is a movie that you don’t want spoiled. I promise, you don’t, and so I vow not to do that here. I might suggest, however, dipping out of this review for now. This movie is best served in the dark, with a bucket of popcorn and no context whatsoever. Come back and read on once you’ve watched “Get Out.”
Let me start by saying, simply, I do not at all enjoy horror films. Never have I seen one in a theatre, nor would I choose that genre within the comfort of my own home. I don’t like being scared, because, well, then I’m scared. I’m not a huge fan of gore either; I find it to be mostly unappealing. “Get Out” neatly checks both of those boxes. And I can say, without doubt or hesitation, that Jordan Peele’s (of “Key & Peele”) “Get Out” is the best movie of 2017.
The film starts in suburbia. Andre Hayworth (star of “Atlanta,” Lakeith Lee Stanfield), a young black man, attempts to navigate manicured lawns and large brownstones; he makes wrong turn after wrong turn. A car appears… following him. Tension builds, but Hayworth adds levity, mumbling small bits reassurance like, “Not today.” When Hayworth stops, so does the car. Odd. And spooky. It’s unsettling for both Hayworth and the film’s audience. Hayworth looks down at his phone, mapping his geography, and when he looks up, the car’s door is ajar; Hayworth looks up only to be grabbed by whomever was driving the car. He’s shoved into the trunk of the car, assumed to be alive but still unmoving.
Credits roll. Six minutes into the film and we already feel uncomfortable– which I think is the whole point of “Get Out,” honestly. This film serves to make its viewers uncomfortable in every sense of the word.
Next we meet Chris Washington and Rose Armitage, the duo around which this film circles. Chris is a black photographer and Rose is his white, chipper girlfriend, and they’re headed to the Armitage mansion to meet Rose’s parents. Chris, reticent and reluctant, broaches, “Do they know I’m black?” Rose reassures him: her parents are liberals, claiming her dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he could.
On the drive up, Rose’s car collides with an unassuming deer, forcing them them both off road. The authorities arrive; Rose forfeits her licence, as she was the one driving. The police officer also asks for Chris’s identification, he is black after all. Rose is quick to defend her boyfriend, and what follows is a tense and contentious moment between Rose and the officer. The officer drives away, Rose and Chris continue on their trip, and we’re left with a sour taste in our mouths. This is what the film does so well: it unnerves. It challenges, in both overt and subtle ways, the liberal, middle-class and their ideas about race. It draws attention to the simple fact that racism does still exist; we are not in a post-racism society, not by a longshot. It’s a film that powerfully subversive, and as a thriller, it’s expertly paced.
Upon arriving at the Arbitrage mansion, Chris and Rose are greeted by their two live-in, black house and grounds keepers, Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel). If the eyes are the gateway to the soul, than these two are soulless. There’s an automated lifelessness to them. Zombie-like, even, and it’s eerie as hell.
Rose’s parents, Dan (Bradley Whitford of “The West Wing”), a neurosurgeon, and Missy (Catherine Keener of “Being John Malkovich” and “Into the Wild”), a psychiatrist, are quite the opposite, however. Rose’s parents are hip and relevant and self-congratulatory as they completely ignore their guest’s skin color. Everyone is overly polite, overly effusive, overly ‘cool.’ Something lurks beneath the surface, a facade that can only stay such for so long. And what was supposed to be a quiet, get-to-know-the-inlaws sort of weekend, explodes into a family reunion, and Chris meets all the other members of the Arbitrage crew. The tension builds steadily during this film, exposing Peele’s restraint and control in his directorial debut. As far as plot, beyond this point, this is all I’ll say: shit gets crazy… in the most exciting, survival-thriller-like way.
“Get Out” maintains, from beginning to end, a social self-awareness that most films, particularly those within the horror genre, lack. And more than simply being an excellent horror film, “Get Out” is this subversive, textured satire on racism. It’s storytelling at it’s very best. Check it out.