You could be forgiven if you went into watching Get Out expecting something more or less like many other horror films. Assuming you hadn’t given in to the urge to check out spoilers or change your assumptions based on the extensive press coverage it’s received since its release almost a year ago, you might think it was simply a horror film with racial overtones. That’s essentially what was sold through the film’s marketing campaign, but it’s not at all what’s delivered.
The story focuses on Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man who’s leaving for a weekend in the suburbs with his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her parents Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener). While they’re presented as enlightened liberals, a series of incidents involving them and the two black servants they have around the house begin to put Chris on edge. That only gets worse when an entire party of rich white people happens and Chris begins to put a more definite finger on what’s bothering him. Still, he had no idea what’s actually happening and his problems only become more severe.
To say writer/director Jordan Peele upends expectations is to put it mildly. Even though I had read some of the commentary about the movie and was expecting a work with significant cultural relevance and impact I was taken aback by just how good it is. While the marketing campaign didn’t sell every twist, turn and revelation it did accurately sell the overall tone of the movie. And watching the trailer again I was surprised by just how much of the story actually was on display, though there was little way to know how those elements were going to play out.
More than anything, I was somewhat shocked by the message of the film. Not because I was angry or offended, but because it felt so essential. Peele touches on cultural issues that have been largely unaddressed, particularly by popular entertainment, for decades. And he does so by making literal the figurative, taking concepts of identity and more and turning them into physical things, not wispy concepts to discuss and debate.
To say more would be to get into spoiler territory, which there’s no way to avoid. I’ll tackle that another time.
It’s no wonder Get Out has gone on to such financial success and critical and popular acclaim. Peele’s direction is assured and has just the right touch and his script is so tight it could be used on deep sea explorations. The entire cast, especially Kaluuya, handles the material in a way that’s both terrifying and hilarious. I’d never considered Whitford as a terrifying actor before, but yeah.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, either because of time or because you’ve been concerned it won’t live up to expectations, rest assured it’s worth it and it does. It’s not what you’re expecting, but the twists aren’t on the “OMG I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING” level of someone like M. Night Shyamalan. Instead they sneak up you, confounding your expectations at every turn. That delivers one of the most satisfying movie watching experiences I’ve had in years.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.