Breakout horror movie uses genre to explore racism

Marking the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, of “Key & Peele” fame, “Get Out” transcends the norms of the horror genre by focusing on real-life issues such as racism. / Courtesy of Kevin Edwards via Wikimedia Commons

“Get Out” is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, of “Key & Peele” fame. You might have heard that this multifaceted film is not actually a horror movie, and this isn’t entirely true. It isn’t so much a horror movie as it is an exercise in the uncanny. “Get Out” is the best sort of directorial debut: it’s idiosyncratic, it’s engaging and it’s one of the best in a series of great movies that have come out this month.

I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers with this review, but this review will inevitably fire off some spoilers in regards to the plot of the movie. They’re not movie-ruining, but they do allude to how the movie progresses. This is one of those movies that is really hard to talk about without giving away some details. This also one of those movies that is much, much better if you go in with only a vague idea of what’s about to happen. So if you’re interested in this movie, go see it instead of reading this review.

First off, the good. I found the way this movie handles its depiction of race relations as a brilliant use of horror as a genre. “Get Out” really hits the nail on the head with how Black bodies are seen within liberal America. This isn’t a dry sort of depiction either; Peele uses the genre of horror to make this depiction as entertaining and imaginative as possible (this movie gets absolutely wild by the end of its runtime).

The type of racism depicted in the film, and the message behind this depiction, is one that I found entirely relevant to the atmosphere on campus. Instead of the broad sort of racial prejudices that are so prevalent within movies about race, “Get Out” is more concerned with the aspects of racism that exist everywhere in America (and especially within liberal places such as Vassar’s campus). These sort of behaviors aren’t hidden in day-to-day experiences by any stretch of the imagination, but they never seem to get discussed within the very circles where they happen the most.

And this is why this movie is a horror movie. “Get Out” gets its horror from its manifestation of these ugly aspects of society that are all too real and all too silent. I loved this. This is something that only horror movies can do. It’s a sort of depiction that takes one aspect of our world and magnifies it until we can’t help but see just how scary and ugly they really are. Sure, the way this aspect gets depicted isn’t realistic, but what it is depicting is anything but.

This isn’t to say that “Get Out” is terrifying like “The Witch” or “Alien,” or that it’s going to make you scared to be on your own in the dark—it’s not that type of horror. Instead, “Get Out” focuses on creating a deep feeling of uncanniness—that something isn’t right—and lets this feeling erupt into violence. This unsettling element is artfully executed, and I found it to be absolutely stellar. No, this movie isn’t a comedy, but the uncanny stuff that happens in this movie made me laugh, and that was Peele’s intent. But this sort of humor is just a way of our brains telling us that something is wrong, and this is the movie’s bread and butter. Developing this idea that things just aren’t right. Our initial reaction to things like this is to laugh at them, but as things get weirder, we start to panic more than we laugh.

That’s as much as I feel comfortable saying about the spoilable stuff in this movie. So now I’m going to move on to aspects of the movie that are more removed from content.

The performances across the board were fantastic. Bradley Whitford’s (who you might recognize from “Cabin in the Woods”) Steve Jobs-esque dad was great at making me and the rest of the audience uncomfortable. Daniel Kaluuya as protagonist Chris was a solid anchor as the centerpoint of the film and brought the emotional depth that helps keep this movie anchored in reality.

Oddly enough, the place where I found the most fault with the movie was where it was trying to be funny. These scenes involve Chris’ TSA-agent friend. Some, but not all, of this character’s jokes fell flat for me. For the jokes that land, they land gracefully and effectively.

The jokes that don’t land well however, took me away from the other excellent parts of this film. I saw these as growing pains on Peele’s part; he’s trying to balance his comedic flair, something he developed with his noteworthy work on “Key & Peele” and “MADtv,” with its more serious counterparts.

But other than that, there really isn’t much else that I saw as being glaringly ineffective. There were some parts that I thought were a little problematic regarding one of the female characters, but the problem solved itself in a way that I found really cool within the confines of the plot.

“Get Out” is one of those movies that I can tell will be a sort of yardstick that others will have to stack up against. This movie was one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had at the theaters since last summer’s “The Nice Guys.” Not only this, but “Get Out” proves that horror is not only a genre with an unmeasurable amount of potential, but is a genre that can help us (or at least help me) see the world for all its craziness.

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