GET OUT Review
Director: Jordan Peele
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Comedy
Good God, was I looking forward to this! After the uncommonly incoherent experiences that were THE BYE BYE MAN and RINGS, it’s about time 2017 deliver unto us a good horror film. Jordan Peele isn’t the man most would expect to take a turn for the scary, but that’s exactly what he does with GET OUT. Well, it’s sort of what he does, because GET OUT really isn’t that scary, and like those aforementioned duds, it’s occasionally hard to tell what exactly Peele is going for here (but more on that later). That being said, horror-titan Blumhouse’s latest still manages to be a fun ride throughout, and is easily the first good “horror” film of 2017.
The premise alone is notable for being a novel twist on one of the most seminal horror classics of all time. When New York photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) agrees to tag along with Rose (Alison Williams), his white girlfriend, to visit her family, he immediately feels out of his element in their bougie estate. It’s not long before Chris senses something even more sinister than socks’n’Crocs is afoot, and he becomes convinced that his girl’s folks are brainwashing black people into being their Urkel-esque slaves.
GET OUT’s black spin on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is certainly intriguing, and brimming with potential for cultural commentary. “Potential” is the key word here, because while the trailers hint at a creepy take on very real societal problems, and Peele’s own penchant for lampooning precedes him, GET OUT doesn’t do either, though not for lack of trying. Peele effectively cultivates an atmosphere of dread throughout, which, more than anything else that is present, simulates the anxiety of being a black man stranded in suburbia. Yet the prevalent use of hypnosis as a device to communicate themes of racism and classism fails to deliver any substantial message, making the racial overtones feel more like fear mongering than pointed criticism. Are black people conditioned to fear whites, or is it the other way around? Are the racists the ones who are really being indoctrinated against their will? These questions, and many others like them, are raised during GET OUT, but none of them are ever answered.
On the other hand, GET OUT’s take on white people is downright farcical. Rose’s brother is a twitchy, meth-addled school-shooter-in-training, while her goofy dad manages to wrangle an overt micro-aggression into literally everything he says (A line about “black mold” comes to mind.) The one white guy Chris does get along with, an art dealer who respects him for his talent with a camera, is ironically blind, and thus literally “doesn’t see” color. Rose herself is only redeemable through her unending professions of white guilt. And despite these cartoonish depictions, the copious amounts of comic relief offered through cutaways to Chris’s friend (Lil Rel Howery), and a comedic third act, GET OUT still doesn’t stick the tongue-in-cheek critique that we see in THE FACULTY. Instead, it lands near the heavy-handed allegory we see in THE PURGE: ANARCHY, setting up the most elaborate joke while forgetting the punchline.
The most anarchic thing here is this outfit
Sure, there’s other gaffs sprinkled across GET OUT. The film opens with a painfully edgy oner desperate to be IT FOLLOWS, and some of the dumbest jump scares in recent memory saw me derisively laughing out loud in the theater. But where Peele’s oeuvre fails at cementing a cohesive theme, it excels at playing along with, if not subverting, genre conventions. The sweater-vested badminton players and wheelchair-bound geriatrics with their 30-year-old wives instantly recall the Pod People of BODY SNATCHERS, the grotesque display of “white” seamlessly subbing in for extraterrestrials in its alienness. The constant sense of vulnerability makes us fear for Chris, and his off-the-cuff solutions to dire predicaments make clever use of callbacks.
Additionally, while GET OUT does for whites what THE FOREST did for Asians, this portrayal is a lot more forgivable in that A) the direction and performances here are actually good, and B) this is a rare angle to see from a major player in Hollywood, which Blumhouse is as far as horror is concerned. Even as someone who couldn’t help but think about the backlash this movie would get if it were instead about a white guy visiting a black neighborhood, “offensive” is the last word that comes to mind when discussing GET OUT. Maybe because the subject of race is handled in such an outrageously over-the-top manner, and its characterizations so inhuman, GET OUT ceases to be about race altogether, simply reverting back to the classic horror staple of man vs. “the other.” This surrealist vision means that even the staunchest MAGA supporter will have a hard time being offended by this film.
You’re right, who am I kidding?
Jokes aside, GET OUT is an undeniably fun thriller that offers a fair share of surprises and a concept that doesn’t exist elsewhere in cinema. Yes, the outlandish execution often overshoots the premise, but much like early Japanese horror games, the garish disconnect from reality only augments the stellar genre fare at play. It’s disappointing that where KEY AND PEELE so naturally talks about race in America, this movie falls completely flat, but the consolation is that this is the real start for what is hopefully a great year in horror. GET OUT is ham-fisted, but ham is delicious, and I’ll happily eat it time and time again.