In Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” reality is the scariest thing
University Union has a solid tradition of showing crowd-pleasing horror films before their official theatrical release, and in the past year we’ve seen the likes of “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” “Unfriended” and “The Visit.” The theatre in Huntington Beard Crouse Hall is always packed, and there’s nothing more fun than screaming alongside your classmates and then returning to reality, even if your crusty dorm room is just as scary as any horror flick.
But last Thursday’s screening of “Get Out” offered up a little more sustenance than an hour and a half’s worth of jump-scares. Jordan Peele — yes, the Jordan Peele from comedy duo Key and Peele — comes out swinging for his first go directing behind the camera, and with a horror film nonetheless. What makes “Get Out” one of the most effective horror films to be released in recent years is not the presence of a supernatural force or psychopathic killer, but of something way more tangible and present in our everyday lives: racism.
That may sound very preachy, but Peele’s execution is anything but. The plot concerns a very real anxiety that most of us must face one day in our lifetime: meeting the parents of our significant other.
However, Daniel Kaluuya’s character Chris is more antsy than most because his white girlfriend, Rose, has not told her parents that he is black. Their initial awkward, albeit warm, welcome — “I would’ve voted for Obama a third time,” suggests the father — from her parents is quickly overshadowed by the Stepford-esque quality of the whole experience. This includes the fact that the only other two people of color around for miles are handyman and housekeeper Walter and Georgina, whose wide smiles, blank stares and short sentences hint at something sinister going on in suburban paradise.
The film goes on to follow Chris’ uncomfortable weekend with the Rose’s parents. The middle act draws the tension out to a max. Even though hardly anything deliberately scary goes on, we get the sense that everything is not as it seems. Chris’s attempts to reach out to Walter and Georgina are thwarted by their robotic nature and a family dinner escalates when Rose’s “lax bro” brother tries to physically rile Chris up at the table.
These happenings culminate when Rose’s parents hold a fully white social gathering in which all the guests seem to be going out of their way to ogle at Chris’ blackness. The scene is ripe with microagressions and patronizing partygoers; it could easily be made up of my extended family. Peele has no problem calling white people out on their b.s., and rightfully so. The only relief to the face palming of the partygoers’ interactions with Chris is found in his interactions with a blind guest, and his desperate calls to his Transportation Security Administration best buddy — and the best comic relief in recent memory — Rod, played by comedian Lil Rel Howery.
The tension satisfyingly snaps in the third act, where satire gives way to more traditional thriller and horror clichés. While I won’t give away the source of the tension, the reaction of every member of the diverse student crowd in attendance speaks for itself. Everyone was cheering by the time the credits rolled.
Both the horror and comedy genres have a way of transforming societal issues into on-screen entertainment and are arguably the two remaining genres that are worth watching in a communal theater environment. Watching “Get Out” in a theatre is what going to the movies is all about: to share with those few hundred people for a few hours a combined experience. And no matter what color your skin may be, you can appreciate that.
Lilly Stuecklen is a junior television, radio and film major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached on Twitter @Stuecks or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on February 22, 2017 at 8:35 pm