In his directorial debut, Jordan Peele, of Madtv and “Key and Peele” fame, flipped the horror genre on its head with his social thriller, “Get Out.” Never before has a movie based genuine horror out racial tensions in quite the way that Peele’s film does. “Get Out,” which follows Chris Washington’s (portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya) weekend trip to his white girlfriend’s parents’ house that quickly turns into his worst nightmare, has earned $156 million to date worldwide after being made on a $4.5 million budget.
The horror in this film feels so authentic because, in my opinion, the action does not center on a milquetoast main character being suddenly pushed into battle with some arbitrary villain in a place in which they always feel safe, like “Halloween” or “Scream.” It features a person who perpetually exists in a state of moderate fear, and clearly already feels detached from the setting, having every non-white person’s worst nightmares suddenly being played out by a cartoonish masked man in the opening (who is blasting a racist ‘50s pop song at full volume as hunting music).
The beginning moments of the film generated genuine fear due to how grounded in reality it was. It features LaKeith Stanfield (of Donald Glover’s “Atlanta”) walking around, lost in the suburbs. He heads down the streets of your generic upper-middle class gated community, attempting to locate a friend who isn’t too far away. Not far behind him, a car appears and begins to stalk him in your run of the mill, exceedingly creepy fashion, just as this portion referenced a similar scene in “Halloween.” The film’s base plot is not dissimilar to “Rosemary’s Baby,” just replace the pregnant young woman and devil worshippers with a mid-to-late twenties black Brooklynite and a community of upstate New York democrats, who, in the words of Chris’ girlfriend’s father, “would’ve voted for Obama a third time.”
The film bounces between horror and comedy at a breakneck pace, capturing the truly awkward parts of interracial dating. Chris stays with the family, despite being made greatly uncomfortable to say the least. There are points around every corner in the story where the writing’s on the wall that Chris should make a hasty exit. The family’s black housekeeper and groundskeeper routinely irk Chris in the film’s early going. The aforementioned father constantly calling Chris “my man.” Rose’s (Chris’ girlfriend) younger brother, Jeremy is truly the character that makes the film shift from being a rom-com about interracial dating with some creepy moments to full blown horror.
Looking disheveled to say the least, Jeremy sizes Chris up and turns the visit antagonistic from the moment he sees him. He asks Chris if he’s ever considered going into MMA, in a way that reeks of the mandingo fighting scene from “Django Unchained.”
In a way, Chris’ reluctance to leave even during a haunting dinner party where Rose’s parent’s rich friends are marveling over his physique, like he’s a racehorse they’re thinking of sponsoring, is indicative of the black experience in America. You become so jaded by off-color remarks about your features or white people trying too hard to relate to your experience, that it becomes hard to tell whether the person uttering them is simply misguided or, in this film’s case, a family of murdering psychopaths that would send chills down the Manson’s collective spines.
Chris’ absent-minded response to creepy factors about Rose’s family, such as their seemingly robot black servants or Rose’s mothers work with what can only be described as occult psychology, is tantamount ignoring your white friend when he tries too hard to dap you up.
Perhaps, the ultimate sign throughout the film that Chris should turn tail is Rose persistently urging him to stay. She acknowledges her brother’s inherent creepiness and jokes with Chris about her parents, but as those who haven’t seen this film will find out, she winds up being more than complicit with her family’s endeavors. This film is, of course, a dramatized take on race relations, but one cannot say that it is entirely unhinged from reality. In his interview with Dinner Party Download’s Dinner for One series, Jordan Peele is quoted in saying that films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” have shown that films showcasing stories about black people, rather than black characters can thrive in Hollywood.
“Get Out”’s implications for race relations are complex. The ‘Sunken Place’ as it is called in the film, could be compared to the heavy cloud that oppression casts over people of color. We are locked in a place where we can’t be heard, are barely seen, and have our sense of agency locked away.
The full scope of the results this movie will have on race relations can’t be measured as yet, but I’m sure it will extend past the less crowded DMs of well-meaning white girls everywhere.