by Patrick Bromley
Get Out, the feature writing/directing debut of comedian and actor Jordan Peele, is as exciting a first film as the horror genre has seen in some time. It is supremely confident and exploding with ideas, all while maintaining technical focus and a distinct personal stamp. It is the kind of horror movie that announces a great new voice in the genre and will be mentioned for years to come in conversations about the best and most lasting horror films of the 2000s. It is, to put it short, something special.
I did everything in my power to go into Get Out knowing as little as possible. I didn't watch a trailer or any TV spots. I didn't read a single review. I wasn't even 100% sure of the premise, though I suspect from a line or an image here and there that it is about a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) who is brought home to the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) -- a family that includes Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener and Caleb Landry Jones. Where the movie goes from there, I won't say. I would love it if everyone could go in as unspoiled as I was, though even that became difficult once people started seeing the movie and talking about it on social media. Try to see the movie before it gets ruined for you.
The Cabin in the Woods have I seen a horror film that combines huge ideas with an ability to really, really play to its audience. Peele pushes buttons in both form and content -- everything is uncomfortable and nothing feels safe. The screenplay knows how to make every moment count. Even an early jump scare that feels arbitrary and, to be honest, a little cheap (if totally effective) turns out to matter by the end. I'm not surprised Peele knows how to construct a jump scare, as his background in comedy requires an understanding of timing that translates well to certain kinds of horror beats. What impresses me most about Get Out is the way that Peele is able to create mounting dread (I've read comparisons to Rosemary's Baby, which are apt) and demonstrates a flair for the abstract. The movie isn't afraid to get weird. I love that. If the end credits are any indication, it might have been even weirder at one point, as there are credits for creature design and creature puppeteering. I hope we get to see that material some day.
If I'm allowed to find fault in the movie -- and with its 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, maybe I'm not -- it's in two areas. First, the middle act of the movie spins its wheels a little long for my tastes; we are made to feel like something is off again and again, but new information continues to be withheld. It's quite possible that this is by design and I'm just missing the point, as it's also during these middle passages that Peele does such a good job of constructing off-balance moments that -- and please pardon my ignorance and white privilege here -- feel designed to convey what racism feels like. As a middle class, heterosexual white male, I will admit that I haven't personally encountered much major discrimination. To talk about what racism feels like requires me projecting, so if I'm wrong please accept my apologies. But the fact that Peele is able to put that idea in my head is proof that the movie is working -- that he's able to put me and everyone else in the audience for Get Out in the shoes of a man confronted at every turn by a kind of casual, liberal racism.
Like with every new gift we movie fans are given, I'm reminded that we can't have nice things. I had a conversation with someone on Twitter over the weekend who was arguing that Get Out is not a movie about race. This just is not true. His argument was that the Chris character could be played by a white actor and the movie wouldn't change. I can only think this person saw a different movie, as that's like saying the gender of the Kevin character in Moonlight could be made female and it wouldn't change the film. Could the exact same events take place? Maybe, though in the case of Get Out they would no longer make sense. But movies are not about plot. They are about the spaces between, and it's there that Get Out finds its greatness. The movie isn't even particularly subtle about what it has to say about race -- another thing I loved about it -- but I guess because it doesn't paint some of the characters as Confederate flag-waving, Steven Bannon-loving alt-righters, Peele isn't doing enough to condemn racism. Those in denial about what Get Out is saying are the ones who most need Get Out.