By Ryen Thomas
February 24, 2017
Welcome to 2017, where Get Out does to Black Lives Matter era what Stepford Wives did during the Women’s Liberation Movement!
So when’s the last time you’ve seen a Black guy take the lead in a major horror flick? Scratching your head? I know I did for a while until Blacula, Vampire in Brooklyn and Tales from the Hood eventually came to mind; but for the most part this is still uncharted territory. Stereotypically speaking, Blacks in horror movies either do one of two things: die fast or survive because they don’t follow the white people into danger (“Hell no, I ain’t goin’ into that old house”). But in his directorial debut, Jordan Peele updates the horror genre by placing his African-American protagonist into a nightmarish situation that he has no business being in.
Get Out introduces us to a wide-eyed young and interracial couple, Rose (Allison Williams) and Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who are finally at the meet-the-parents stage in their relationship. While these kinds of meetings are awkward for every couple taking a relationship to the next level, Chris suspects that his blackness will make him the elephant in the room.
Enter Rose’s family. Her mom (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist. Her dad (Bradley Whitford) is a doctor. And her brother, who seems fixated on the fact that he and Chris share an interest in the martial arts. Chris is warmly welcomed at their dinner table where all the right things are said. The home feel like such a perfect liberal safe place, we wonder where they’re keeping their post-election “safety pins.” Heck, Rose’s father even admits that he would have voted for Obama’s third term. However, after meeting the family’s groundskeeper and maid, both of whom are also black and…help-ish, Chris realizes he may not be in Kansas anymore.
He starts to wonder if he’s truly being welcomed or is just a dangling piece of dark meat for folks to oddly admire. The fascination never feels personal. The characters are not trying to get to know him as an individual, but simply as another member of the black race. They talk about famous black Olympian Jesse Owen a lot, and the idea of Owens becomes a kind of standard that attracts them to Chris’ skills, body, genetics, and background. The film’s horror ultimately emerges from how and why the family acts on their fascination with what think they of as his “blackness.”
It’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but with a meal served from hell.
Writer/director Peele toys with the cultural fears that run rampant in the black community. Will he be able to maintain cultural identity and continue to “keep it real” in a white community? Will he sell out his blackness to be accepted? And if he does or doesn’t, will he live to tell about it? Peele smoothly balances out horror with a social commentary on the old fashion issue of racism. American race relations are satirized in a fresh way and, consistent with the tone of his sketch comedy, there are no punches held back. We haven’t seen content like this, since Blazing Saddles.
If you want a movie that will thrill you, then see this. Want to laugh? See this movie. If you want to join this conversation about modern race relations? Then by all means, see this. This is a movie that is begging you to bring your prejudices and preconceptions with you into the theater. Will the film provoke racial unity? Will it confirm racial tensions? Will it encourage us to enter uncharted cultural waters with our guard up? Whatever the answers, SEE THIS MOVIE.
Get Out is the scary, funny, shocking, and smart ride through American racism that we really need right now.
Star Rating: 5 out of 5