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What better way to celebrate Black History Month and Halloween in October than Get Out? Following the success of the comedy show Key & Peele, director Jordan Peele infused some of its comedic elements into Get Out while bringing horror genre tropes into the film. Though comedy and horror elicit completely different feelings, Peele has managed to tread carefully and balance between the two genres, ultimately creating a confident and incisive social satire with thriller elements.
Get Out is heavily concerned with white people’s racially stereotypical fetishisation of black masculinity, where all the guests attribute traits of superior athletic capabilities and virility to black men. Peele provides the opposite of this stereotype with Daniel Kaluuya’s character, Chris, who is an empathetic and artistic photographer: a clear contradiction of the white pre-conception of black masculinity. However, Chris is not excluded from the trauma universal to the black community: he is, like all black men, just as traumatized by a white supremacist society’s animosity towards black pain. Peele’s injection of hard truths feels like a refreshing and culturally relevant addition to the genre.
Yet, one aspect Get Out could delve deeper into is the collective depersonalization of black people. Sure, there are pieces here and there suggesting the horror of black people losing their sense of self and control of their bodies, but Peele decides to use classic horror tropes in the third act, dismissing all the hints of this specific aspect of black pain from the first two acts. Or perhaps even treating it as idolisation of something purely aesthetic. It is a minor misstep in Peele’s direction but is further improved on in his following film, Us.
In spite of its flawed political allegory, Get Out still stands as one of the better horror films of the past decade, elevated by a densely, intelligently written script, but the humour and light-hearted tangents make it fascinatingly accessible. Further satisfaction is to be gained through Peele’s delightful sowing of seemingly insignificant details (whether a look or a shot) that has an answer, later. He allows the pieces to fall as they may, giving the audience time to soak in the atmosphere of Upstate New York whilst building up a looming, claustrophobic terror, which cumulates into an absurdist ending, serving as perhaps one of the most memorable finales of cinema in the past decade or so.
Get Out is without a doubt, one of the cultural touchstones of the 2000s. While flawed in its social critiques of white liberalism, I would be remiss not to mention its commercial and critical success, grossing $225.4 million USD against a budget of $4.5 million USD, while currently sitting at a near-perfect 98% Rotten Tomatoes score. It is an important film, not because of the incisive script or the near-perfect tonal balance between levity and horror, but for its cogent encapsulation of the Trump-era political landscape. It’s by no means perfect, but its suspenseful and hypnotic aura leaves you shocked, and if you focus hard enough, you might just start hearing all the desperate pleas for change.