'Get Out' (2017): A Fanboy Reflects
With 'Us' gracing screens, I wanted to rewatch the film that ignited my interest in horror.
SPOILERS for those that haven't seen the film.
I’m not a horror fan. As a student of film, I am of course aware of the tropes and have watched a few horror films in the past. But, to be honest, I’m too much of a coward to watch most. I assumed Get Out would be a similar situation. That proved, however, to not be the case.
The discussion around the film was more concerned with its depiction of racism, using the genre to critique how America viewed racism through the lens of a talented, though yet unproven, African American director in the form of Jordan Peele.
Let's talk a bit more about Peele, for a second, as his command of the screenplay and of directing this film is well beyond what you would expect for someone's debut. The script masterfully plants subtle hints to the outcome as early as 10 minutes in, dropping more and more upon Chris's arrival to the lake house. Indeed, these hints give the film a more slow-paced opening act, making it more akin to a Hitchcock movie than a more modern horror film. Every character feels dense, even some of the more minor parts are given more significance the more you unpick what's going on. All of these hints and details add up to a completely different experience going back for a second watch, which is a rare achievement for a film. They can be as big as a character's motivation being made more clear, such as Rose, or the constant out of focus glances in the garden party scene, or even language choices from characters like Georgina being confused when Chris refers to "ratting her out."
But moving onto the performances, the two clear standouts are Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. I'll admit, Daniel's Chris in the opening comes off as somewhat unlikable in the opening act. More than one reference is made to him being a jealous boyfriend, and his nonchalant attitude at first on occasion comes off as arrogance. However, as the film progresses, and he begins to work out what's going on, I began to warm to him as everyone around became stranger.
Allison Williams, for me, is the standout though. Not by much, but she manages to play this dual role that twists on its head in literally a second, as she's searching for the car keys. The moment she takes those keys out, and you realise that she's been a part of it this whole time, there's a point where you can see her eyes change. They then proceed to have her put her hair up, which I don't think was necessarily needed, as she could clearly portray the character without the drastic costume shifts that followed. It's a testament to both her performance and Peele's directing that you don't doubt her until almost the very moment she switches, at least I didn't first time around.
Then we have Rose's parents, played by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford. These two are some of the more cartoon-ish characters. They never go completely overboard, but they're just heightened enough to be unsettling. I'm sure that was by design, but for me, especially with Keener and the hypnotism, the way she spoke often pulled me out slightly. Bradley Whitford does a stellar job upon first meeting him of being this slightly-too-nice father, but after the rest of the order shows up, he becomes a bit too much. However, the award for way too much goes to Caleb Landry Jones, whose performance is just fine, but he very much oversteps the boundary into cartoon-y horror villain.
Ramping Up the Tension
As stated before, this movie plays more like Psycho than Friday the 13th, borrowing more from the thriller genre than it does a horror, and it uses those tropes. The film ramps up tension like a ratchet strap, only using a jump scare once, from memory. That jump scare when Chris steps outside for a cigarette was the only time, aside from the end, where this film felt cheap in terms of scares.
The ending of this film is the most disappointing part for me. It's not a bad ending at all, it's actually quite cathartic to see Chris relentlessly hunt down the members of the Armitage Family, however, the film felt like it was building to something bigger. In the end, it devolves into slasher film territory. It might have been more interesting for Chris to escape, and yeah, kill a couple of them if you want to, but the movie felt like it had a more intellectual ending on the horizon, and for me, it didn't live up to that hope.
So overall, Get Out is a great film. It's a suspenseful, masterfully directed, and beautifully shot horror/thriller with a great pace, and only marred slightly by some of its indulgences into classic horror tropes. I recently heard Jordan Peele referred to as "the new early Shyamalan," which I think is a very apt description. Us doesn't seem to be divulging too much from what this film established for him, with a tense murky atmosphere akin to those early films like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Whilst not perfect, it's a great watch and an interesting lens onto the lives of African American's as told by an African American director. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have some fruit loops and milk separately.
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