A young black man is lost walking down a suburban street. Then, he realizes a car is following him. Suddenly, a masked figure gets out of the car and knocks the young man unconscious and drags him into the trunk.
This scene would make anyone nervous, but in today’s tense racial climate, the incident is downright frightening. It’s also just one of the many uncomfortably intriguing scenes in Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out.
After having watched it this weekend, this movie has become one of the best movies I have seen in recent years. I love the fact that Peele has used the horror genre to allegorize racism as a monster that still terrorizes us.
“I wrote this movie to address the racism that wasn’t being talked about,” Peele told EBONY.
“The germs of this movie started eight years ago. I was thinking about how we were in this post-racial lie. We weren’t supposed to talk about race, it’ was kind of like no no no no, don’t even bring it up, we got a Black president. So, that’s where this idea came from,” he explained. “[It] was to say there’s a monster lurking underneath this country. And even though you don’t always see it, it’s there, and lot of us know it’s there.”
In Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya, stars as Chris, a young man who is planning a trip with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents. He’s a bit apprehensive because she, a White woman, hasn’t told her folks that her boyfriend is Black. If you’re old enough, or well versed in Sidney Poitier’s film repertoire, then you might be thinking Peele is riffing off of the 1967 classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but this time around it’s more like guess who might be dinner.
Things start off strange right away when Rose’s parents, the Armitages (Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener), are more interested in Chris’ Blackness than Chris himself. And when the family’s maid and groundskeeper, who are both African-American, come off like the robotic blacks instead of real people, Chris becomes extremely suspicious.
His descent into a terrifying “are they trying to kill me, or are they just weird?” back and forth results in an unsettling, funny, and overwhelmingly spooky movie. Given our current political climate, which makes Get Out more resonant than ever, it’s easy to assume Peele’s primary inspiration for the film was pulled from news headlines about black men continuously suffering grave and blatant injustice at the hands of white people.
It turns out a lot of different things influenced the final product, which Peele began working on before former President Barack Obama even took office. In an interview with The Daily Beast, the director revealed that he wanted to capture a “real horror” in the vein of classic horror movies:
“I feel like all classic horror movies have a very true horror behind them, and the thought of doing a racial horror movie came up but I really doubted whether or not it was possible. When Hillary and Obama were competing for the Democratic nomination, there were a lot of questions raised about gender civil rights and racial civil rights, and almost a pitting against one another of the two different causes. I began to look at those two issues as being parallel issues, and two of my favorite movies are Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives. The way that those movies deal with gender and are ultimately about men making decisions for women’s bodies — and address justified fears from the women’s lib movement — was a signal to me that you can also do a movie about race using the same model.”
Peele has also used his comedic genius to help balance the ebb and flow of shock, terror, and drama. Much of it comes from comic Lil Rel Howery as Chris’ reality-checking buddy, a Transportation Administration Security agent who knows a fishy situation when he smells one. And while its central drama revolves around race, “Get Out” also slips in a pointed gender flip. Speaking with BuzzFeed recently, Peele said he aims to “disrupt the historically male gaze of the horror tradition” by having the protagonist be a black man instead of the usual white girl in jeopardy. (The original “Night of the Living Dead” serves as a classic exception.)
In much the same way, “It Follows” tapped into the awkward fear lurking below the surface of sex and young adulthood, Get Out mines its scares from generations’ worth of simmering racism and bigotry. And with so much of that hatred bubbling to the surface in recent months, the timing couldn’t be more appropriate for the film to arrive in theaters. Its themes resonate in ways that make the scares just a little more frightening, and its horrifying narrative a little more real than it might have seemed a year ago.
Hopefully, Peele is just getting started.
So, GET OUT and see this film. Don’t go alone and I guarantee that you’ll be talking about it long after the end credits roll.