It is a daunting endeavor to speak in depth about the brilliance of Jordan Peele‘s directorial debut Get Out (2017) without major spoilers, thus, this post will focus less on plot and more on mise-en-scene and tone. The trailer sets up the premise quite well, leaving no doubt as to the escalating tension that the audience can expect (but it also includes moments that didn’t make it to the final cut):
When I’d initially read about this film and watched a trailer, I thought it would be scary-and-funny the way the Scary Movies are scary and funny. I also anticipated a “final girl” motif … except that it would be “final black guy.” After watching the film today, I realized my assessment wasn’t inaccurate but needed some adjustment. The events in Get Out take place over a weekend where Rose (Allison Williams) takes her boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her family. It quickly becomes apparent that something is amiss with the atmosphere around the house and Chris is uncomfortable.
The film is both humorous and horrifying but not due to crude jokes, paranormal activity or extreme body trauma. The foreboding and psychological terror reminds me of Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968) — things appear normal on the surface but something is clearly wrong.
Tragedy and comedy are frequently cited as two sides of the same coin, and as Get Out suggests, horror is a substantial player in that relationship. If you’ve seen any of Key and Peele‘s skits or Keanu (Peter Atencio, 2016), you’ll be familiar with the sinister-meets-silly quality of Jordan Peele’s humor. The laughs come because of genuine comedy as well as the dynamic between horror and comedy. Within the story world, the actions and beliefs of certain characters is the source of terror. If read ideologically, one can find a reflection or criticism of society. It’s not the monsters and the ghosts that are scary — real life is scary. Ostensibly normal situations with just the right amount of distortion or anachronism generates a sense of dread that no long-haired Asian girl or exploding light fixtures can.
As a cinematic experience, the music and sound design create a visceral reaction akin to watching a monster film or slasher film. Audible jump scares, dissonant juxtapositions between sight and sound.
Because I don’t want to get into even minor spoilers, I’ll leave you with a list of observations and miscellany:
~ Microsoft and Bing branding. We got lots of close-ups.
~ So, not all TSA agents are misguided?
~ Jordan Peele wrote the screenplay as well and there was only one close-up that made me think what we see would be important later on…and it wasn’t. Deleted scene maybe. Many other visual elements come back together for the big reveal.
~ The film shapes very specifically the viewer’s perception of the characters along the way until such time that the narrative unveils true motives. You don’t get to “figure things out” necessarily before the characters do.