Horror films are hit and miss with me – sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad and other times they’re just plain silly. So, when I went to see Get Out yesterday, I had some doubts on how it would pan out, if it was as good as the trailers and ratings suggested. And I was wonderfully impressed.
A dark, thrilling and morbidly funny film, the audience are hooked immediately. It opens with the abduction of a black man, who was previously on the phone. He is taken by someone dressed all in dark clothing and thrown into the back of a car. From then, we are drawn in by the strange music and surprised when the story line begins lightly, a boyfriend and girlfriend going about their business, only to be broken when they accidentally hit a deer when driving to her parents’ house.
Chris worries that Rose has not told her parents that he is black, as he believes, he is her first black boyfriend and her parents are a well off, privileged white couple, living in the suburbs – clearly, he was worried about their reaction to him, their acceptance of their daughter’s relationship or if they would shun him due to the colour of his skin. Something that people of colour suffer with daily. In my lifetime, I have yet to come across someone of colour who has had zero experiences of racism.
And as a woman of colour, I can attest that when being the only person of colour, surrounded by white people, like Chris finds himself in, at a party, it’s uncomfortable and isolating. And I am not the only person who has felt this way. It shouldn’t be this way, we shouldn’t have to feel awkward and self-conscious because we happen to be a different race, but that is the world we live in. It is upsetting to think that my parents would feel uncomfortable sending me to a school in a predominately white area, not because they believe all white people are racist, but that some ARE. And the fact of the matter is, I have family members who have lived in predominantly white areas and racism became a living nightmare for them.
As Chris and Rose sink into the weirdness that is her family’s lives, Chris begins to notice that something is wrong. Missy and Dean have a gardener, Walter, a black man, and a maid, Georgina, a black woman, who act robotically, like puppets. So, does their friend, Logan, who is also black. And it is only them who act in this robotic way. For small flashes in their daily lives, Chris gets a glimpse of who they really are – Logan has a panic attack and has a nose bleed, and he tells Chris to ‘get out!’. Logan wasn’t trying to hurt Chris. He was trying to save him.
The same happens to Georgina, she starts crying when talking to Chris. Walter tries running right to Chris and then talks about Rose in a way that seems like he personally knew her. When Chris contacts his friend, Rod, he tells him that Logan is actually a past acquaintance of theirs, who was abducted at the beginning of the film, months ago. Chris then discovers a box containing pictures of Rose with a series of black people, including Walter and Georgina.
In his attempt to escape, Rose reveals that she too is a part of the act. The family have a strange obsession with mortality, to create the perfect human being and choose black people as their test subjects. This appears to be a message on the society we live in – the fact that having white skin is a privilege, the skin colour of an ideal human being. And if you’re not white, then you must be controlled and enslaved. Sound like something? White supremacy. Or you know, the Aryan race, as Hitler enforced.
Rose’s family puts the minds of elderly white people into the bodies on young black people, to enforce control and restriction over them. To make them servants and vessels for the white people who see them as failures. In other words, it was a comment on the way in which black people (and by extension, all people of colour) are treated in society – that the only way they can be accepted is if they are controlled by white people.
It was cleverly done and even towards the end, when Chris escapes and is seen trying to kill Rose, a police car drives up. And I tell you, never has my heart sunk as quickly as it did while watching this. I think I actually shouted ‘no!’ in the cinema, because I knew, I knew how this was going to end.
I knew when she started smiling and calling for help. I knew when the siren was heard and Chris stood up, holding his hands in the air. Why? Because he knew he would be blamed. The police see this scene before them, and granted they wouldn’t be able to tell or discover what the family had been doing previously, without investigating, but it says something doesn’t it? The fact that the audience deflated and knew that if a white cop got out of that car, Chris would have been shot on the spot.
Rose would have gotten away with it. They would have shot him dead and only when the truth came out, AFTER, his death, would he be pardoned. If the truth even got out and it wasn’t covered up.
Even if he hadn’t been shot and he was arrested, would he have been given a fair trial? Would they prove him innocent? Would he walk away as a survivor and not the criminal? Can anyone say honestly, that he would have lived to see another day, if the cop got out of the car with a gun in his or her hands? Because, how many black lives have been lost at the hands of white police brutality?
The number is too high to count.
And then, thankfully, it was Rod who stepped out of the car to get Chris. And I kid you not, I heard someone behind me say, ‘oh thank fuck for that’, at the exact same time I did. That’s what really rammed the truth home.
That it wasn’t just me who knew what would have happened.
It was the fact that everyone in that cinema had the same reaction.
And while it is all good and well to have that reaction in the cinema, to feel the awkwardness and isolation that Chris feels at the dinner party, to understand his apprehension and worries, to feel his anger and distress and to feel your heart drop at the moment Chris thinks he’s going to either be shot dead by the police, or framed for what’s happened; will it really change the way people act in real life?
Here’s an article by Jordan Peele, the director, on that ending and what it might have been.