You cool like dat? I’m cool like that.
by Thom Yee
One of the most cogent and convincing arguments I’ve ever heard in my life was about cheating:
“If you can take advantage of a situation in some way, it’s your duty … to do it. Why should the race always be to the swift, or the Jumble to the quick-witted? Should they be allowed to win merely because of the gifts God gave them? Well I say, ‘Cheating is the gift man gives himself.'”
Eugenics isn’t explicit in that statement, but I think it is implicit, and eugenics, or at least the idea of pre-determining a preferred path based on your beliefs on superior genetic traits, is an idea at the core of Get Out. I can’t (or shouldn’t) outright tell you what entirely is going on in Get Out (certainly not here so early in the review at least), but I can tell you that Get Out is a movie about race. Not like Malcolm X or American History X racism, but in the race-is-always-going-to-make-certain-people-act-weird-no-matter-how-much-they-say-it’s-not-a big-deal way. Sort of. Sometimes it feels like Get Out is actually just a big, long-form joke with one single punch line that we all should get but some of us just aren’t going to.
Honestly, I think I’m kind of messing up this intro right now, and that might be a reflection of how hard it is to openly talk about the differences between us when it comes to our ethnic backgrounds. White people are lame, black people are urban, Asians can’t drive. White people can’t dance, black people have rhythm, Asians are good at math. Black people can say at least two of those things, I think I can say all of those things, but white people can’t really say any of those things anymore, not in the weird, confusing, and awkward place these things seem to be at this particular point in history. And then if you really want to get personal about it, sometimes it feels to me, as a Chinaman (a term only I can use), that Asian jokes are open season for everyone just because of the even tempers and respectful, quiet natures we Asians choose to project. But if you only knew how angry, how boiling hot we really are on the inside every time you people make a joke at our expense…
Actually [looks around]… is it okay to be talking about this? I don’t know if we should be talking about this.
What’s it about?
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young [black] man, is about to visit his [white] girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents at their remote, lake-side cottage. What a nightmare! Also, things get weird there. Y’know, with the black people.
Coverage of horror movies is one of the things I’ve wanted to ramp up for a while here at GOO Reviews, and with movies like Get Out, that’s something that’s going to be very easy to do. I don’t necessarily mean that as the glowing compliment it might seem to be so much as it just is much easier to sit through horror movies like Get Out when they’ve been made by people who want to make more than just write empty ghost stories or shoot more than just meaningless jump scares. As the directorial debut of Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame [I’ll let you figure out which one he was; rest assured, the clues are in the title]), it’s almost inevitable that Get Out would have at least a little bit of biting, race-based social commentary, but it’s also a movie from Blumhouse, a newer production company with a winning formula: Make movies fast and cheap that don’t look cheap. And it’s worked out pretty well for them so far, particularly when it comes to horror movies with newbie directors, small-scale practical effects, and actors that aren’t yet household names.
Unlike with many of those other Blumhouse movies, however, another of the reasons Get Out is notable is its Rotten Tomatoes score, which was, for several days after its release, a perfect 100% (and now holding strong at 99%). As astonishing as a near-perfect score in any sort of critical field might seem, it’s (once again) important to note that with Rotten Tomatoes, 100% doesn’t mean that nearly all critics thought Get Out was a flawless movie, it just means that of the thousands of critics recognized by Rotten Tomatoes, 99% of them gave it a grade of 60% or higher [on their respective scales]. Under this system, it’s theoretically possible that a movie universally recognized as thoroughly mediocre but not bad could receive 100%, just as it’s possible that a clearly more ambitious, age-defining movie with deep complexity that, nevertheless, proves to be divisive among critics could receive an RT score far lower. In other words, an RT 100% isn’t the same as the 100% we Asians are expected to get in math, nor is an RT 50% the same as the 50% we usually get in English, it’s more like when the math teacher convinces the English teacher to bump our marks up to a 60% so we can graduate because the sciences are more important than the arts anyway. Or maybe that’s a really tortured metaphor, but at least I know when to capitalize math, science, and English. Despite being Asian.
Is it any good?
There’s no doubt that Get Out scratches several of the itches many of us have when we go to see movies — horror, humour, social commentary — but if you’re planning an evening that might include Get Out as part of your night’s entertainment package, I want to let you know that, to me, I think it really only gets one thing absolutely right: It’s just kind of fun. (Also, “There’s no doubt that Get Out”? That rhymes!)
As our central character, black Chris (which is what we might as well call him, but I’ll drop it at this point for the sake of… oh, let’s say brevity) gradually finds his way with Rose’s white family — her liberal, Obama-voting father, her psychologist mother, and her, frankly, unhinged brother — most things seems somewhat normal and suitably tense, but there’s a very definite and fairly overt creepiness to the family’s black groundskeeper and housemaid, and when it turns out that Chris and Rose have accidentally chosen to visit on the same weekend of the family’s annual get-together with their also very white neighbours, that’s when things really go off the rails. We’re given a few relatively grounded elements of backstory early on for Chris, including his smoking habit and the guilt he feels over something from his past, and that’s all the reason this movie needs (or all the reason we’re going to get at any rate) to quite suddenly delve into crazier things like hypnotic suggestion, secret societies, and “the sunken place”. It might seem like a bit of a spoiler to reveal those are significant things in this movie, but focusing too much on plot points and mechanisms in Get Out is kind of beside the real point. Get Out is in no way trying to escape the horror genre’s trappings, it’s just messing with them.
While Get Out is first billed as a horror movie, it’s almost never genuinely scary. If you’re really jumpy or if you desperately want to be scared, then it might move your internal horror needle a bit, but if you’re a horror junkie or you’re girding your loins against being terrifying, you won’t find much true horror. At a conceptual level, what’s revealed to be happening in the movie is mildly discomforting, but not quite frightening, and how much it will affect you is up to you and how much you obsess over things like science gone wrong. If you’re the type of person that’s really upset by the potential for global pandemics or obsess over how close we are to anti-biotics no longer working or, in general, think deeply about things not always meant to be considered at a high level, then I guess there are horrific elements in the movie that could bother you, but there’s only, like, two jump scares at most, no supernatural tentacles reaching at us through Lovecraftian dimensional portals, and only appropriate levels of mostly gore-less blood.
It’s more as a comedy where Get Out really takes off, and yet I also wouldn’t say there are many laugh-out-loud moments. There’s just a vibe to Get Out that makes it hum at a particular frequency, one that’s unusually subtle given how plain it is when we’re supposed to be chuckling. Rod, Chris’ [black] roommate, is the only one of this movie’s characters who is actually played for comic relief, but even then it’s a type of comedy that, in this movie, is more purposeful and specific than it would be in less… I don’t want to say sophisticated fare, but the style of comedy is definitely more intentional and pointed in Get Out than it is in the types of movies you usually find it in.
That’s all well and reasonably good, but the thing that made Get Out a satisfying package for me is one really weird thing: Given most of the events of the movie, it’s possible to view the entire thing as Rose and her family trolling Chris and, by extension, us. You can wrap the movie up with labels like horror or social commentary, you can say it’s about the feelings you get when you’re literally or figuratively trapped, you can imagine it’s saying something about guilt, real or white, but there’s a line of thinking you can have while watching Get Out that, if followed all the way to the end, makes this movie a big meta joke on everyone, on the characters in it and on all of us watching it. At the same time, that’s also that’s also where the movie fell a little flat for me. Without going too much into detail for fear of spoilers, there are a few moments in the movie that I felt were going in different directions, moments that really could have driven the point (or any point) home. If you look at what [white] Rose and her [white] family put [black] Chris through in Get Out as one giant troll session, then it’s also possible to look at what Chris ends up doing as a massive overreaction, and he the only one guilty of doing anything wrong, and I feel like that could have been a really great point to make in how our law enforcement systems tend to affect black people and white people differently. Instead they just go for another joke, and that made the movie a little more weightless than I would’ve liked. On the other hand, maybe that was the right call, I don’t know.
So should I see it?
I actually don’t think Get Out works particularly well as a horror, a comedy, or as a study on racism, so if you’re looking for a skillful treatise on or skewering of any of those things, you might be disappointed. It’s a strange, almost singular movie, and one that works best simply as good fun that doesn’t demand much, but there’s also just enough there to be examined from high above and appreciated at least for its approach if not its contents. Or maybe not and the real joke’s on people like me who like to overthink these things and usually actually end up wrong about everything. On the other hand, if you fall somewhere more in the middle, if you’re someone who wants more than just the obvious but isn’t looking for something so deliberately elusive and not what it looks like, I don’t know if there’s as much there. I’m trying real hard to not sound elitist here, but… I don’t know, it’s just weird. It’s not demanding exactly, but there are things about it that make me wonder how many people are really in on the joke, and then at the same time, there are moments and choices made by the creators that made the active viewer part of my brain feel a little betrayed. I don’t know. I would recommend it, and obviously a lot of people seem to like it, but… I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Thom’s Get Out final score
On the Edge
- Classic white Porsche 944! And they crashed it?!?!
- Why in the eff is Microsoft still product placing Windows Phone in movies?
- Mr. Wilhelm! Is this what happened to him after he was brainwashed by the Sunshine Carpet Cleaners?
- Points to anyone who got where that quote in the intro is from.