Get Out (2017) was the far superior Jordan Peele film, so far. This young, seemingly promising director followed up the success of his first movie with the disturbing, much more overt Us in 2019, and you can find The Legionnaire‘s review of that one here. Peele’s first foray into feature length directing was creepy without being over-the-top, though its bloody conclusion does border on being excessive. The bloodbath that he followed that up with blew any subtlety away and left this reviewer stunned not just for its content, but by how people reacted to it. However, this review is not meant to draw a comparison between the two. The point here is that if you want the good Peele flick, watch Get Out.
As mentioned above, Get Out is subtly creepy. How many of us (no pun intended) have had an awkward racial experience? I am guessing we have all seen that person who tries to “act black,” whether to ingratiate themselves to somebody of another color or perhaps out of a desire to cover their own prejudices. This movie takes that concept, and turns it up another degree. When African American Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is invited by his Caucasian girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to her parent’s house for the weekend, he warns her that this situation will be fraught with a tense subtext of people not being overly welcoming but trying to compensate by being overly nice. She ensures him that their feelings are genuine, claiming that her father, Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), would have voted for Barrack Obama for a third term if allowed. Thankfully, some of this is played for laughs, and there is comedic relief in the character of Chris’ best friend and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer Rod Williams (Lil Rey Howery). If not, the resulting coming true of Chris’ prediction, and the subsequent thinly veiled racial comments of the party goers at the Armitage residence, would have made the movie almost unbearable. Still, that is part of the genius of the film: you are meant to be slightly uncomfortable and it pulls it off well.
That atmosphere of uncomfortableness is ratcheted up another notch when the real reason for that party is revealed, and thus why Chris was there in the first place (just in case, spoilers ahead). In the world of Get Out there exists an order (what this “order” is exactly is never made completely clear) that sees black people as genetically superior. Furthermore, they have perfected a procedure that allows them to implant a portion of their brains into the bodies of kidnapped black people, making their victims into hosts for their consciousness. The bodies are those of the original persons, but the personalities are all those of the members of the order. Essentially, this can be boiled down to white peoples wanting to be black people, but with white people personalities. That may sound absurd, but if you have a sense of the history of racial relations in the United States (check out what minstrelsy was all about some time), then this idea is a bit less surprising. The victims in this process are rendered docile by the hypnosis administered by Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), a licensed mental health and Rose’s mother. The scene where Chris is hypnotized is truly frightening, where he is conscious, but rendered unable to move, being told to “sink into the floor.” After the hypnosis, there is a period of indoctrination where the victims (for some reason) have to fully understand what they are getting into for the operation to be successful. To the relief of all, Chris is able to find a way to resist the final phase, and when he is able to break free (to the surprise of the Armitages), he proceeds to murder everyone and burn the house to the ground.
So, yeah, Get Out kind of escalates quickly at the end. It works, though, as it slowly builds to the climax. While Chris does not exactly practice the Christian ideal of turning the other cheek, at least we know that the Armitage family has been stopped. Good triumphs over evil, in short. This film is not without flaws, though. Apparently the thing that snaps victims of this process out of their subdued state and allows their own consciousness to float to the surface is a flashing light, such as a camera makes. How they expect a person to go through their lives without seeing such a thing stretches believability, which is a real problem for a film that relies heavily reality. Nonetheless, this is a relatively minor quibble in what is otherwise a solid film, technically speaking, all around.
If you can manage a bit of squirming around in your seat, then I recommend Get Out. There are a few scenes towards the end that, if you are squeamish, you might want to avert your eyes during them. And it is definitely not a film for the whole family. But it is not too vulgar, and that is something. It shows that you can have a truly scary movie without resorting to copious amounts of blood and gore.