Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'Get Out' (2017)
Maybe we should have listened in 2017...
To be blunt, I had no idea how I was gonna tackle this movie. In my review of Us (2019), I mentioned that I wasn't going to make an embarrassing attempt to 'white-splain' the ethnocentric, sociopolitical implications of the movie. By and large, one of the biggest reasons I didn't do a review of Get Out (2017), is due to the fact, that subject is unavoidable.
So, to those reading right now, I want to be clear. I'm a dumb, pasty white dude, trying to interpret some pretty heavy concepts that are flat out foreign to me. I'm going to get shit wrong, and for that I pre-apologize. I'm doing this review, in part to elevate the voice of the BLM movement, by drawing attention to those struggles the only way I know how, through horror commentary. You can hear about this review on my new podcast The Nightmare Feed, and if I totally blow it, do not hesitate to leave a comment.
It's especially important to note, that when this movie came out, the BLM movement had already been peacefully protesting FOR SEVERAL YEARS. And yet, 3 damn years later, it finally came to a head, after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Police assaulted peaceful protesters, sparking riots and violence across America. To that end, all I can say is, if the message of people like Jordan Peele hadn't been ignored, we wouldn't be here. #BlackLivesMatter
So, here I find myself, clumsily trying to navigate the parable masterfully crafted years ago by Jordan Peele, one of the best new horror directors I've since grown to deeply respect.
Already, the first interactions are intentionally pretty cringe worthy, as lead actress Allison Williams (also Charlotte from The Perfection (2018)), explains that her dad will try to buddy up with the Daniel Kaluuya's character Chris Washington over things like Barak Obama. This is to set the tone that what Chris will deal with is the usual benign and subtle racism of rich white folks who believe they understand the struggles of black men.
I have to tell you, what starts as a slightly cringe worthy moment, begins a never ending escalation of impossibly steep, disquieting tension. Funny enough, this includes one of the most unusual ways to spark an atmosphere rife with uneasing tension; a completely shameless jump scare. But it was brilliant. William's character Rose, hits a dear. It seems so damn random and kinda corny, but it's smartly tied in later with one of the consistent themes of the story. That being the guilt Chris harbors for the death of his mother.
And of course the acting is fantastic, but it even goes beyond that. Some of the actors had to masterfully construct, weird and almost inexplicable behavior, to seem like it should be perfectly normal under the circumstances. Without going into the spoilers, there are two servants that frequently have bizarre interactions with Chris in ways that intentionally come off as jealousy or contempt for his position in the Armitage house.
Outside of the never ending tension, stunning atmosphere, and stellar acting, there is even side of jovial mirth, from Chris's friend, Rod, played by Lil Rel Howery. It may seem a bit out of place at first, but it adds a perfect contrast in two way. First, Rod's character can be jarring in the sense that he seems hopelessly inept at providing any real help, spelling certain doom for Chris. Second, it helps lend light to the perspective that everything Chris deals with is absolutely insane, to the point of being surreal.
Before I go into the spoilers, I have to firmly say, this movie is a must watch. Not even because of its narrative on the daily struggles and frustrations of African Americans, but simply because of how good it is. While I'm not sure where on my 'All Time Top' list this will land, I'm considering that it will even beat out Us (2019), as there are far less plot holes.
I'm going to swing a guess that this parable is supposed to highlight the malignant nature of cultural appropriation. The Armitage family, isn't just your typical group of bleeding heart, white liberals, they are literally out to rob black men, and women, of their identity, selling those identities to the highest bidder. They are literally stealing the young healthy bodies of black men and women, selling them to a selection of old, dying, filthy rich, white people. The winning 1%er then has their brain transplanted in the new body, with the remnants of the former person locked deep in the leftovers of their former brain.
As the winning bidder of Chris' body explains, its about the prowess, the fashionability, the sexualized mythology of the African American. These people are obsessed with 'how cool it would be' to be black, knowing their money and power will mostly stave off the difficulties of their new race. What's worse, this is delivered in a deranged story of 'togetherness' with their new black host, that somehow robbing them of their bodies, and mostly lobotomizing them, is actually doing them a favor. A sorta "kick back and enjoy the ride of being rich" while some rich white guys pilots a body you were "just going to waste on being black and poor."
That seems like a slap to the face of the usual white liberals, who are "just trying to help." The idea of "help" often meaning taking over for black communities by telling them how to run their lives, without listening to or taking cues from said communities. Something that has been an problem in the recent BLM protests, as group after group jumps on board to steer the issues towards interests not at all in line with BLM. Moreover, it highlights that often white people only value black people in ways that are trendy in popular culture. Something that can metaphorically trap them in a cycle of being ridden by rich white people.
Well, I'm absolutely sure I blundered something in the subtext there, but outside of my feeble attempts to interpret it's meaning Get Out (2017) is actually just good horror. You should watch it.