by: Alyssa Ruffolo
Get Out was not only makes-you-jump scary, it was truly haunting and left thoughts lingering in my mind all night after I left the theatre. The incorporation of racial issues in the movie is a huge part in what moves the viewer. In the opening scenes we see the main characters Chris (a black male) and Rose (a white female) dating and having the conversation of him meeting her parents/family. It seems to make him uncomfortable that she has not yet told them that he is black. Right there, at this moment at the beginning of the film, the audience gets a look into the eyes of a black male in this situation. This scene really moved me because I cannot begin to imagine how he must be feeling about meeting her parents.
Then we see as he meets her all-white family, the subtle comments and actions as they are trying to relate to him and focusing on the fact that he is black. Rose’s dad makes sure to tell Chris that he liked Obama and would have voted for him a third term if he could. We see a few comments about how black men have a different physical makeup and are stronger/faster, again singling him out and making him seem almost like a different species than everyone else in the room. Later the dad mentions that the two property workers at their house are black and that he realizes this looks like “slavery” and looks bad, but that’s not what it is. Instead of just leaving these unnecessary comments out, he has to point out the racial differences and make things awkward for Chris. All of these satirical pieces that Jordan Peele includes makes the audience sit back and reflect on themselves. For viewers who are white, we may be thinking Wow, is that really how someone who is black might be treated? Do I act like that?. For black audience members, maybe these occurrences are very relatable and evoke an emotional reaction (whether it be humor or understood frustration/anger). As I watched these cringe-worthy parts of the movie, I felt annoyed for Chris. I don’t understand why people have to act differently toward people of other races. While seemingly trying to make him feel comfortable, the white family is clearly still treating Chris differently and making him uncomfortable.
There was some phenomenal acting, for example the part of Rose’s brother Jeremy played by Caleb Landry Jones. Jones plays the erotic brother of Rose, who sparks the audience’s understanding that something fishy is going on at the Armitage household. He begins challenging Chris to a fight at the dinner table in an inappropriate way/time. His facial expressions and mannerisms give the audience the idea that he truly is psychotic. Also, the role of the hypnotist mother played by Catherine Keener was extremely haunting and believeable. As she sits with Chris and begins to hypnotize him, her eyes began to scare me as I was watching. Her calm demeanor and strong eye contact give the audience the feeling of loss of control, which goes along with Peele’s theme of being helpless in a situation where you are an outsider. When she has Chris fall into the “sunken place”, where he no longer has control of his body because he is in a deep state of hypnosis, this idea of loss of control mirrors the racial issues that society has created and the loss of control that minorities feel in their everyday lives. Lastly, Keith Stanfield’s part as Andre Hayworth played over and over in my head as I left the theatre. Although his part was short in the movie, his skilled acting left a great impression. He plays a hypnotized prisoner of one of the white family members who attend a family reunion at the Armitage house. Although his words indicate that he is very happy and having a great time at the event, his eyes leaving a lasting impression on Chris as well as the viewers. His eyes look sad and helpless, and as Chris captures a picture of him with his flash on, Andre snaps out of his hypnotism for a few minutes only to appear frantic and in need of help (before being taken away and presumably re-hypnotized).
Although I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling film, after leaving the theatre, I was still left with a few questions and confusions. It was never explained why the flash on Chris’s camera seemed to make the hypnotized people snap out of their trance. Also, when Chris is about to be hypnotized towards the end of the movie, we see the father Dean Armitage performing surgery to remove part of a white person’s brain which will be implanted into Chris’s brain. This confused me because it was never fully explained where this tied in with the hypnotism. Were the subjects/slaves of the mother’s hypnotism also subjects of Dean’s neurosurgery? Were the brains of the white and black people switched completely, or just parts of them? Andre Hayworth’s “owner” seemed like a perfectly normal white woman, while he seemed to be merely in a trance, but then Chris once captured was supposed to undergo surgery against his will and have part of his brain removed. This whole part of the plot confused me, but it could just be me. Also, when Chris and Rose are on their way to the Armitage house to meet her parents, a deer jumps out in front of the car, leaving a spooky illusion to later events. We are revisited by the deer when Chris is trapped in a room awaiting his brain surgery. There is a deer mounted on the wall which gives Chris flashbacks of the deer they hit on the way there. Is this the same deer? Or is this a different deer just generally symbolizing the idea that a vulnerable/weak subject has been captured and killed by the Armitage family, much like Chris’s current predicament? This was never 100% clear to me. Also, there is a scene where the maid Georgina (played by Betty Gabriel) speaks with Chris. He asks her if everything is okay and she proceeds to cry while also telling him that she is very happy serving the Armitage family and that everything is fine. Is she, too, hypnotized, but only partially? I would assume that if she was in a full trance, she would not have the impulse to cry because she would truly be convinced that she was happy as a household slave. Maybe she was subject to partial brain surgery by Dean, and a part of her brain was her true self who was crying and needed to escape, while the other part controlling her speech was saying everything was okay? This scene, while extremely spooky and hair-raising, also did not make sense to me when I reflected on the movie later. Lastly, I feel that a little more information about where the couple Chris and Rose met would have helped the audience cope with her later-revealed insanity. The whole movie I was thinking, how did they meet? How did she lore so many other black men back to her house in such a short period of time? How old was she? and questions of that nature. While mystery can be a good thing in horror films, too much mystery and too many plot holes leaves the audience with a feeling of needing closure/answers.
Overall, I think the movie was a fantastic portrayal of race issues while also adding in a creepy, horrific plot twist. I hope that it will leave the same imprint to other audience members that it did on me.