I was originally supposed to watch Get Out months and months ago on a girls’ weekend away. We had planned a movie night for the Friday evening and my friend who was doing most of the organising wanted something scary and something funny to watch. There were six of us going in total. Five black ladies and me. The lone whitey. I got sick at the last minute and had to cancel. Thank God. They have since confirmed they would have made me sleep in the bathtub with the door locked. From the outside. Fair dues.
If you don’t already know, Get Out tells the tale of Chris, an African-American photographer and his very white, very middle-class girlfriend Rose, who have reached the “meet the parents” relationship milestone. She invites him to her parents’ house for a weekend getaway in what turns out to be a very secluded estate in the woods. They are extremely welcoming and accommodating, but what might at first seem like anxious and over-polite ways to deal with an interracial relationship they might still not be entirely comfortable with, soon turn creepy and unnerving as the weekend progresses. Plus, there’s all the other African-American people who are just behaving strangely like the maid and the gardener and the guest who is the same age as Chris but married to someone twice his age and doesn’t seem to know what a fist bump is. What exactly is going on?!
That really is all I want to say on the plot because to risk spoilers is to risk spoiling the movie. The storytelling is genius. I unfortunately knew one of the major plot twists in advance and although it ruined some of the tension, it didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the film. As much as it’s a horror movie, it’s a psychological thriller. It’s also a social commentary on racism, white privilege and liberal hypocrisy. The best part is, it’s done so subtly, the cultural critiques and observations are woven so cleverly into the fabric of the narrative, you find yourself horrified by something or laughing at something that you yourself are probably guilty of. I think that’s actually why you leave feeling a little shaken up, rather than because of the horror and the violence.
Writer and director Jordan Peele has made history by becoming the third person to earn best picture, best director, and best screenplay Oscar nominations for a directorial debut. Yes, I thought I would mention his accomplishments before mentioning his skin colour – we can move on to that next. He has the opportunity to be the first African-American to win best director, the fifth to be nominated. Last year he also became the first black writer-director with a $100 million debut when Get Out passed the box office mark in a mere 16 days. Daniel Kaluuya is also nominated for best actor – a most worthy nomination. I think the picture of him in the grey hoodie, strapped to the chair with humungous eyes and tears rolling down his cheeks is going to be an iconic picture for years to come. As far as performances go, I think a special mention should go to LilRel Howery for his role as Rod. Everyone needs a friend like Rod in their life!
Much is being said about Get Out breaking down Oscar barriers by becoming one of only a handful of horror movies to be nominated for best picture. However, I would argue that it’s more of a thriller than a horror. Same goes for Silence of the Lambs. I have literally never heard of it being classified as a horror movie before, except for now, when they want to compare the two. In 1992 Silence of the Lambs swept the top five categories (one of only three films to do so) and as horrifying as some of its scenes might be, it is first and foremost a psychological thriller. Some articles are even including The Sixth Sense and Black Swan in their definition of horror. I think The Exorcist (1973) could legitimately be classified as a horror film. It was nominated but lost out to The Sting, arguably one of the greatest films of all time. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, straddling the fence between horror and thriller was nominated in 1975 but lost out to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – one of the other three films to win all top five categories.
I think in general I associate horror movies with gore and the macabre, cheap scares with things jumping out at you and unbelievable, often cringeworthy story lines. That’s why they don’t get nominated for Oscars. When the writing crosses over into the level of prestige and the story becomes thought-provoking, they become thrillers and the Oscar crowd takes notice. Perhaps the comedic value offered by Get Out and the shear farce of the last ten minutes has everyone a bit confused as to how to label it, but at the end of the day, who cares. Jordan Peele made a damn good movie and he’s probably going to make loads more. Woo freaking hoo!