Chillingly surreal and visibly tinged with the experiences of its director, Get Out (2017) displays the modern day America in a mind-bending Horror format. Whether it to be considered an exaggerated form of the location or a gruelling commentary through the eyes of an African American perspective, to call the world “fantasy” is an insult. Get Out is one of these movies that is able to articulate its social commentary effectively without compromising the entertainment factor for a general audience. As a white eighteen year old from England, there’s only so much relatability I can confidently describe. I’d be lying if I said this film’s setting felt completely disconnected from the world we live in, but I understand that it’s not my place to delve into such a controversial topic without the experience needed to fully comprehend it. That being said, this movie was intriguing nonetheless and lead me to spend many hours analysing all of the MICRO elements hidden away. I’m excited to discuss what I found.
Get Out (2017)
DIRECTOR & WRITER: JORDAN PEELE
STARS: DANIEL KALUUYA, ALLISON WILLIAMS
An Engaging, Well-Written and Believable Narrative
Working as the lead writer as well as director, Jordan Peele clearly had a vision. It is so easy to turn this film into a ham-fisted clunky mess with its multitude of themes, ideas and conflicts. Load that on top of the relatively short run-time of just over an hour and a half and the script for this movie could’ve been a disaster. Thankfully, each character in this movie felt real. Nothing felt like a cardboard cutout or a list of tropes and personality traits. Even though we may have not delved into the psyche of the entire cast, their motives were clear and justified in the universe that this movie so effortlessly builds. From the very first sequence, dark themes of race and violence are brought to the forefront of the frame for the sake of the narrative. Not once in this film did the message feel tacked on or irrelevant to the Thriller story that was built, the two intertwine perfectly and manage to heighten the overall narrative even further.
So if you’ve seen the trailer for this movie, you’ll already know pretty much everything that happens in its entirety. I cannot stress enough how terrible the trailer promoting this film is. Falling prey to the biggest mistake of Horror promo’s in revealing every twist in the movie within a three minute timespan. For a movie with such a unique concept and a plethora of plot twists throughout, it’s a disservice for the trailer to be so poorly done, please do not watch it if you’re going into this movie blind. Your typical Horror film will build tension from the beginning, set up some plot elements, create an intensive payoff in the middle and allow the piece to slow down to a halt in the end. Get Out doesn’t like to be conventional and goes far from the expected curve. Playing on the mindset of the modern audience, aware at bare minimum that this is a movie about race, this film deliberately paints certain characters in a negative light.
Nothing is as simple as it first seems for this piece. Textbook techniques like camera tilts to convey power and establishing levels to visually convey hierarchy are all used to solidify an idea of these characters in your mind. Think about it. A movie about race, with a African American lead entering an isolated house of a white family. It’s inevitable that the modern open minded viewer would connect the dots and establish an antagonist in their mind. As I said before, nothing is quite as simple as it first appears.
Heavily Detailed Mise-en-scene and Fantastic Camera Work
My favourite kind of movie, as a spectator and as a film student, is one absolutely loaded with props. Mise-en-scen is a term to describe the small details that build up a single shot. Small things like candles to illuminate a dark room can convey an endless number of meanings depending on the context and reasoning for the prop to be there. Although it can be a little on-the-nose at points through this film, Get Out displays an excellent collection of detailed settings. Constant motifs throughout the film are a heavy factor in this film’s success – functioning as one of the few constants to keep this hectic narrative on track. Most noticeable in my initial viewing is the recurring motif of the Deer. An innocent animal, prey, that is commonly associated with American hunters due to their location and profitable meat. If there’s any way to convey a stereotypical “hick” family, it’s by mounting the head of a deer on a wall as a trophy. However, the family we’re introduced to aren’t quite following that archetype: with members involved in neuro-science, psychiatry and a number of distant relatives active in professional sport. If this were an essay, I would delve into the deeper messages of this but for the purpose of a review, the settings convey much more than just “looking nice as a background”.
In addition, there’s no way this would be accomplished with shoddy camera work. As his first venture into film directing, it’s quite promising how much of a personal vision shone through this Jordan Peele piece. Though it may be too early to label him an Auteur, there was certainly a number of specifically chosen methods to portray specific effects. One I noticed in my second viewing is the heavy use of the handheld camera when focusing on our main character Chris. In the awkward situation he’s in (suspecting his girlfriend’s family dissaproves of their relationship due to his race), it’s understandable that his thoughts become muddled and his emotions uncontrolled. Visually presenting this mental frustration can be difficult and this film decides to emphasise the handheld camera, shaking the frame slightly. Similar to using a Dutch Angle, this effect attempts to warp the world around him while communicating to the audience that Chris is losing his cool. Throughout the movie, bad things happen as a result of his loss of composure. By establishing a consistent indicator of an event that leads our likable protagonist in a bad situation, this instils a level of dread in the spectator. These subtle decisions are what set aside a by-the-book Horror movie and one made by a director who understands the camera.
A Significant Shift in Tone Near the End of the Movie
Get Out is clearly a movie of divided acts. The previously mentioned “plethora of plot twists” all create a snakelike structure to the overall narrative. Following the dark establishing sequence of a nameless character in the wrong neighbourhood, the soundtrack immediately cuts to Childish Gambino’s: Redbone. Not just a cultural nod and indicator of time period, this bouncey hip-hop style beat creates juxtaposition between the grim scene we saw just a few minutes ago. This first third of the movie follows this carefree lighthearted approach, everything taken with a pinch of salt. This allows the pacing of the movie to remain slow and build up our main character of Chris – who seems like a genuinely good guy in an awkward spot. Now that the spectators have been given time to become attached and relate, the second third establishes some dark undertones to the dialogue. Not stooping to blatant audio cues upon certain key words like other Thrillers might, the sub-text is deep and an activity to explore in itself.
Small details become more apparent as Chris (and by proxy, the audience) become paranoid about every little detail. Why is the house painted white and the windows painted black? Does the white panelling represent the strong foundation of the white neighbourhood while the black windows are the black workers keeping entry into the “house” closed? These questions begin to whizz around your mind as an active spectator. By loading every single scene with so much detail as I mentioned earlier, your mind begins playing tricks on you as red herrings become less obvious by the second. Everything seems to point toward “the only possible answer” as the characters become creepier and more unnerving as time goes on. Then at the end of the second third comes to a close, all is revealed and it cuts away.
The third and final section of the film? I can’t discuss that without destroying everything this movie stands for. As both an awareness of its themes, messages and conflicts it feels insulting for my thoughts on this final section to be somewhat validated. Not only that, but as a lover of film. That feeling of exploring a psychological Horror without any prior knowledge is too rich that I don’t want to reveal anything more than I may have already done before.
Get Out is an incredible demonstration of taking an element in the real world (whether exaggerated or not) and creating something truly horrifying as a result of the real world aspect. This is not just a movie about racism, it’s not a typical college project spelling out “racism is bad”. Instead, Peele quite dramatically presents the idea in the theme of Horror and, with the aid of intelligent writing, enables the addition of Thriller concepts. The script is great but it’s credit to the cast that were able to bring it home and deliver a thoroughly gripping watch. Tie that all together with a clever use of camera techniques to keep the visuals engaging through the large amount of dialogue and Get Out pulls off a conceptual Thriller this year needed.
If you’ve seen this movie and want to keep the discussion thriving in the comments below, please keep in mind that not every reader will have seen it themselves. Keep minor spoilers to a minimum and major ones out of the comment entirely. I love hearing feedback and discussing film, but not at the expense of anyone else’s viewing experience. Thank you for reading.