People who know me know I don’t do horror films, so when Get Out was released I immediately thought “Nope, not for me!” Fortunately the internet bombarded me with multiple articles and reviews praising the film, however I still was not persuaded to go see it until someone convinced me it was a comedy. I left terrified, but it was worth it.
It opens with a pre-credits sequence on a suburban street which sees Lakeith Stanfield’s (of “Short Term 12”) character being abducted to the sinister strains of Flanagan and Allen’s “Run, Rabbit, Run”. This scene is then followed by the equally ominous and eerie melody of “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga," a Swahili phrase that translates to “Brother, Listen to the ancestors. Run! You need to run far! (Listen to the truth) Brother, Listen to the ancestors. Run! Run! To save yourself, Listen to the ancestors.” Writer-director Jordan Peele explained that "The words are issuing a warning to Chris (the film’s protagonist). The whole idea of the movie is 'Get out!' — it's what we're screaming at the character on-screen." Not only does this song end the film, it is also heard at various points throughout. Peele went so far as to infuse the movie's soundtrack with a somewhat hidden message that not only makes sense within the context of the story, but also serves as a powerful piece of advice for the audience.
The incredibly talented Daniel Kaluuya (of “Skins” and “Black Mirror”) stars as Chris, a young photographer specializing in human portraits, who lives a quiet urban life with his girlfriend Rose, played by Alison Williams (of “Girls” ). The couple are preparing for a “meet the parents” weekend in her rural and secluded family home, which has Chris concerned. “Do they know I’m black?” Chris asks Rose and she replies with “Should they?”, assuring Chris that her father would have voted for Obama a third time if he could, a claim he duly repeats on cue.
Rose’s family welcomes Chris with open arms, but he is immediately put off by the all-black house staff. Rose’s father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), and her mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), do all they can to make Chris feel comfortable by assuring him that the help isn’t “a race thing”, they were just held over after their time as caretakers for Dean’s parents came to its end. The family are so eager to make Chris feel like he belongs that they only end up emphasising how much he doesn’t. From the cringeworthy “my man!” chumminess of Dean to his weird and inappropriate jokes, to their unsettling fascination and obsession with his physique - all of which make Chris very uncomfortable.
The Armitage home leaves us unsure whether to laugh, cry or scream, and Chris’ resulting pain and uncertainty is not satire, it’s a documentary. We laugh because it’s horribly, terrifyingly real. Chris reaches out to the few people of colour in the overwhelmingly white world he’s visiting, only to find they’re off, somehow.
As Chris begins to grow closer with the family, the red flags start to pile up. The housekeeper Georgina is a bit off, and the groundskeeper menacingly runs through the woods at night, calling it “exercise”. His best friend Rod (played by Lil Rel Howery) calls Chris and asks “how are you not scared of this shit, man?” It becomes apparent that something isn’t right, especially when Missy starts pressuring Chris into allowing her to use her career training in hypnosis to “help him”. As Chris continues to develop as a character he immediately starts to put the pieces together resulting in a series of revelations.
If I were to go any further with the film’s plot I would spoil it. All I can say is Jordan Peele's directorial debut contains reasonable amounts of dark humour, plenty of jump scares and gore, making Get Out an intelligent and unsettling horror commentary on racism and white liberalism. The ensemble cast keep the energy levels high enough to prevent disengagement – to stop us from snapping out of the film’s hypnotic spell is very deserving of its 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It is a film that must be seen more than once to spot all the clues leading to the film’s final act and I cannot recommend it enough. The words of Childish Gambino’s Redbone serve as a reminder to the audience to “Stay Woke!”