Get Out

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It’s interesting watching Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) today. Get Out remains a harrowing social satire and harsh indictment of the “color lines” that partition this country. But there was so much buzz around Get Out that it was difficult to separate the message of the film from its aesthetic attributes. Get Out epitomized the zeitgeist of a moment, and now that the moment has passed it may be time to revisit Peele’s remarkable debut with new eyes.

No one can argue that Peele isn’t a good director. He has the flair and the wit to elevate the horror genre in the same way that George A. Romero did. Peele’s aligning of the “dreaded other” device of the genre so as to represent white America still feels like a stroke of genius. For me where Peele runs into trouble is when he decides to explain the motivations and diabolical procedures of the Armitage family. The pacing of the film shifts dramatically once Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is bound to an armchair for some serious exposition. I would rather not know what evils the Armitage’s and their motley assortment of bigoted Boomer buddies are up to. By not knowing my mind can run rampant, I can insert any sort of horror from brainwashing onwards. The twist that the Armitage’s are imprinting the consciousness of those near and dear onto the minds of unwilling Black men and women takes me out of the realm of the earlier grounded social commentary and into the fantastic.

I also think that Rod (Lil Rel Howery) doesn’t get enough screen time in the final act. I think there is a missed opportunity here to join Rod as he puzzles things out and tracks Chris down. Peele could have cut from Chris’ abduction to Rod’s story and just stayed with Rod till he met Chris. Of course this would only really work if Chris and Rod reunite just as Chris emerges from the Armitage house. Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) could even retain her lines “Grandma!” and “Go get him Grandpa” to suggest the nefarious activities of her family. 

Since the plot twists in Get Out transform the nature of the narrative so dramatically and suddenly when they’re revealed I’m immediately reminded of M. Night Shyamalan’s features. Like Shyamalan, Peele, in Get Out and then Us (2019), seems totally convinced that a film cannot retain mystery throughout; everything must be explained regardless if these explanations compromise the whole of the picture.

Until the moment Chris wakes up bound to that arm chair I’d say that Peele had created one of the great horror films of all time. Nothing can touch that first act. It reminded me why The Wicker Man (1973) continues to endure and fascinate. Robin Hardy’s masterpiece of British horror is about a single individual entering a world where he is the outsider, pursuing a hopeless quest only for everything he knows to come undone in the film’s final moments. The structure of The Wicker Man would have been perfect for Get Out; simply withholding all the revelations for the absolutely final moments of the film.