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Get Out (2017)
DIRECTOR: Jordan Peele
SCREENWRITER: Jordan Peele
MUSIC BY: Michael Abels
STUDIO: Universal Pictures
RELEASE DATE: February 24, 2017
MPAA RATING: R
The Horror of Race Relations

Written by Chris Pandolfi

Most horror movies are merely a sequence of events, a clothesline on which to hang pop-out scares, tense build-ups, gore effects, death scenes, or some combination of all of the above. Get Out is one of the rare horror movies that doesnít leave it at the level of a technical exercise, thatís actually about something. Under the writing and direction of Jordan Peele Ė known for his comedy sketches with Keegan-Michael Key, but here uses his debut to indulge in his dark side Ė the film is a twisted, taut, and clever satire, one that crosses Guess Whoís Coming to Dinner with elements of The Stepford Wives. It begs several serious questions about how much progress has truly been made when it comes to race relations in the United States.

Chris Washington, a successful photographer and former basketball prospect (Daniel Kaluuya), is a black man in a relationship with a white woman, college student Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Chris is reluctant to meet Roseís parents, Rose having never told them that her boyfriend is black. She assures Chris that he has nothing to worry about, that her parents, while perhaps a bit lame, are open-minded and liberal. The drive from the densely-populated city into isolated woodlands is uneventful until a deer runs right into the carís path; not only does this awaken within Chris a repressed emotional trauma, it also brings both Chris and Rose into contact with police. The officer asks for Chrisí ID, despite the fact that he wasnít the one driving. Chris doesnít want to make waves, but Rose calls the officer out on it. Sheís just modern that way.

When the two arrive at the parentsí estate, located miles from another house, we in the audience are quick to notice three things. One is the fact that racism can be subtle and subversive, as when white people go out of their way to say how much they appreciate black culture; Roseís father, respected neurosurgeon Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), makes it a point to tell Chris that he would have voted Obama in for a third term if he could, and even expresses admiration for Jesse Owens and his Nazi-defeating race wins at the 1936 Summer Olympics. But Chris is also made aware that Deanís father competed in those same races, which is to say he was beaten by Owens. ďIt must have been tough for your father,Ē Chris says. ďHe never got over it,Ē Dean replies.

The other thing we notice is the black help Ė a maid named Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and a groundskeeper named Walter (Marcus Henderson). Something isnít right with them. They speak in subservient tones, taking time between sentences. Their expressions arenít genuine. Itís as if they missed the entire Civil Rights era. Sometimes, Georgina is seen wandering in quick darts through the halls of the house, as if she were keeping an eye on Chris. At one point, for no reason at all, Walter runs at Chris with the speed of a sprinter. This alone is enough to give Chris the willies. It gets even worse at an annual shindig hosted by Roseís parents, in which elderly white people convene and express to Chris how much they like black people, especially physically; when Chris takes a photo of the only other black man in attendance, he temporarily snaps out of his strange docile state and lunges at Chris frantically shouting, ďGet out, get out!Ē

Finally, we notice Roseís mother, a psychologist named Missy (Catherine Keener). Like her husband, sheís warm and accommodating to Chris. She also immediately picks up on the fact that heís trying to quit smoking, and seems rather eager to cure him of his cravings with hypnotherapy. Dean swears by his wifeís methods; he too was a smoker, but after just one session with his wife, he could no longer look at a cigarette, much less smoke one. ďDo you smoke around my daughter?Ē Missy asks, not reproachfully but certainly with an air of concern. ďIím trying to quit,Ē Chris replies nervously. He understandably has no desire to be hypnotized, although after a night of strange dreams, he wonders if he ended up under Missyís spell regardless.

The truth about the situation Chris is in is obviously something I canít divulge. What I can say is that Iím of two minds about it. On the one hand, itís utterly preposterous, and it somewhat undermines the point Peele is trying to make about racism. On the other hand, this is the kind of film that allows for preposterousness; if youíre going to make a satirical thriller, maybe the right approach is to go for broke. Whatís not in dispute here is the effectiveness of Get Out. Itís not only a frightening film, itís socially aware. Many white people, myself included, like to think themselves progressive, unbiased, nonjudgmental, colorblind. But perhaps itís a subconscious front for their envy. Why should someone else possess what should be theirs? Itís just not fair.


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