Rosemary’s Baby is a film that I’ve only ever seen once, but it is one I remember vividly. The way the film builds and builds, as it sends its lead character through the ringer up to its terrifying end. It is not a standard horror film. Many horror films deal with social issues (i.e. Night of the Living Dead or The Babadook), as Rosemary’s Baby does, but it explores more than its central theme of the fear of parenthood. It explores femininity, marriage, adulthood, sex, religion. Its depths are profound and the more the film is explored, the richer the treasures that are found in the film. Get Out is that type of layered horror film.
Without spoiling too much, the film follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young black photographer, as he visits his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. His girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), is really sweet to Chris and they appear to have a realistic and honest relationship. Her parents, played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, are those typical white upper middle class liberals who aren’t outwardly racist, but you can tell they don’t know many people of color because of how hard they try to make Chris feel welcome and how much Rose’s dad keeps bringing up Obama. But as young couple’s trip to meet the family progresses, things start to go awry, and Chris makes some startling revelations.
Chris, as played magnificently by Daniel Kaluuya, is a great protagonist to follow in a horror film. Often, the lead characters make stupid decisions, but not Chris. He is intelligent, resourceful, and naturally suspicious of the events that transpire. Jordan Peele makes sure his hero of the story never falls into genre cliches. Chris is not the typical token black character, he is his own person with his own desires, opinions, with real fears and emotions. In one scene in particular, as the audience is introduced to “the sunken place, Daniel Kaluuya shows off his talent as an actor. As anyone who has seen the second episode of Black Mirror or Sicario, you know this guy can act. But he brings his talent to new heights in this one scene. You learn so much about this character and his motivations just by sitting in a chair answering questions. Kaluuya pulls off an incredible performance.
In fact, the entire cast is great. After Cabin in the Woods and now Get Out, I hope Bradley Whitford continues to land supporting roles in comedic horror films. This hybrid genre seems to bring the best out of him. Allison Williams is also strong, as she brings a tenderness and strength to her character. She is supportive of her boyfriend, but her character is never just an accessory to the lead. She is her own person with her own arc. Even the great Stephen Root pops up in a few scenes as a family friend who is an admire of Chris’ photography. In one scene, Betty Gabriel as the housekeeper Georgina almost steals the entire film from Kaluuya as the camera focuses on an extreme close up with little depth of field on her face, and with just repeating the word “no” reveals so much about her character and the larger story at play. It is at once terrifying and captivating. And Catherine Keener seems impossible of giving a poor performance, as she is at once forceful and mysterious as Rose’s mother.
Get Out is a powerful force of a film. One that left me uneasy throughout its entire runtime, from its opening sequence featuring Lakeith Stanfield lost in a suburban neighborhood as the creepy song “Run Rabbit” is played, to a scene at the end involving Fruit Loops. There were scenes that had my heart-pounding (the keys) and others that made me crack up (Chris’ friend played by LilRey Howery talking to a cop). It is fully entertaining and thought provoking.
Not every film is brave enough to focus on characters’ races, but Get Out relies on it. I don’t think this film would work if it were about other ethnicity. The uncomfortable conversations can occur Chris finds himself stuck in at times are common for any person of color meeting their significant other’s Caucasian family, and vice versa. But the themes Get Out explores, dealing with black male stereotypes, how white liberals overcompensate when around a black person, the difference in societal norms between races, and deep seated quiet racism. This film is powerful and necessary viewing.
From a technical standpoint, what impressed me the most coming out of the screening of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, is the film is a textbook demonstration of balancing different tones. The film is at times funny, romantic, thrilling, exhilarating, suspenseful, heart-pounding scary, creepy, and mysterious. It is a film that is a satirical comedy, a drama, a thriller, and a horror film. But it isn’t quite a horror film like Evil Dead or Shaun of the Dead are. And it isn’t a straight thriller like Fatal Attraction. Because the varying tones weave in and out of each other, the film defies generic labels. The best comparison I can make is Get Out is like Rosemary’s Baby. Like that classic, Get Out is scary at times, but it is not a traditional horror film. It never relies on scares to tell its story, instead it relies on memorable characters, a mysterious story, fantastic acting, and thematic layers that continuously reveal themselves. This film is near perfect.
[On a side note, I found that song, and it’s gonna creep me out the rest of my life (as will Fruit Loops)]: