Just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’re welcome.
What Get Out Means to Us
Get Out will go down as one of the most impressive debuts in history, not because it changed the cinematic landscape like Citizen Kane or Reservoir Dogs or because it’s technically impressive like the Shawshank Redemption or because it became instantly iconic like This is Spinal Tape but because it came out of fucking nowhere. Before it’s crazy as hell trailer dropped (that skeleton deer still haunts my dreams), Jordan Peele was best known as one half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, along with fellow comedian Keegan-Michael Key.
Together the two worked on projects like Mad TV, Fargo, Keanu, and obviously, Key & Peele. Based on those shows and movies, nobody on Earth could’ve predicted that he would become the modern-day Rod Serling but 2017 came around and Peele dropped an atomic bomb of a debut. A perfect blend of comedy, horror, race issues, and satire, Peele threw The Stepford Wives and The Mephisto Waltz into a blender, added a dash of Rosemary’s Baby and Carpenter’s trademark genre subversion, hit frappe, and then served with a sledgehammer.
My first thought when I heard about Get Out was “what do you mean the guy from the knock off Chappelle’s Show is making a horror movie about post Obama era racism? There’s no way that can be good.” Boy was I wrong.
Few movies have rattled me to my core the way Get Out has. Few movies understand my essence the way Get Out does. It’s not hyperbole for me to say that I’ve never connected with a movie on a deeply personal level more than I connect with Get Out. To me, it’s a perfect movie.
What makes Get Out so special is Jordan Peele’s understanding of the language of cinema. He uses it to his advantage at every step along. Each familiar beat is an opportunity to subvert expectations. Each familiar camera move is an opportunity to challenge the viewer. Every moment of this movie exists for the sole purpose of allowing us to understand the message it’s attempting to convey. The tightness of the script and the precision of the directing are second to none. All kudos to Jordan Peele.
All of what’s great about Get Out can be boiled down to a single shot. A single shot that captures more terror than the rest of the film combined. The shot in reference is of Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris after he successfully triumphs over his adversaries and is about to finish off Rose. With the familiar flashes of the red and blue sirens on Chris’ face as he slowly raises his hands, Peele packs our history/our society/our country into a single frame.
I felt something I’ve never felt before watching this movie. And I’m not sure I’ll ever find another movie to make me feel that way again.
Jordan Peele’s Masterpiece
Who would have ever thought that one of the best horror films of all time would have been written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele? You know, the guy that gave us “noice!” Get Out would take the horror world by storm in 2017 for not only how well it was made and its social commentary but for its divisiveness as well. Get Out is a horror film with multiple things to say. Peele would touch on multiple themes with Get Out including but not limited to slavery, race envy, and neglect for minority missing persons.
Jordan Peele helped to popularize the social horror (which doubles as a satire in its own right) when Get Out pulled off the impossible. It spread a message about racial profiling which continues to be referenced today (the “sunken place” is a relevant symbol in many news cycles or online responses). The film was treated as a comedy at the Golden Globes. No one knew what to think of Peele’s genre-bending, outside of the fact that it was instantly identifiable within social politics. It’s about putting a perspective on the daily horrors of things that are marginalized. Even with these tough questions raised and whether you agree with them or not, Peele still manages to make a smart, strange, unpredictable thriller that doesn’t skimp on what horror fans want. It damn well worked.
Peele puts on a masterclass of layering his themes (some in your face and some subtle) along with hiding
The Sunken Place
Sink…Now, you’re in the sunken place.
Get Out is a perfect blend of horror and social commentary, and one of the best examples is “The Sunken Place.” When Chris is unwillingly hypnotized, he falls down into the sunken place. But it isn’t filled with jump scares or horrifying monsters. No, what makes it so scary is the symbolism behind it. Peele has described “The Sunken Place” as a metaphor for marginalized groups and the systems that suppress them. Pair the imagery of Chris falling along with Daniel Kaluuya’s harrowing performance, and you’ve got a horror film that’s too real for comfort.
Yes, “The Sunken Place” is clear as day pertaining to a certain representation given the social climate it was introduced. However, I also appreciate Peele stating that it can also be attached to any person or group that feels held back or unheard. This makes an impact outside of just race and will speak to generations of movie lovers who will feel comfort in being seen and understood.
Did You Notice?
THE NAME OF THE FILM ITSELF
The name of the film basically refers to the famous horror film, The Amityville Horror, about a family in Long Island who move into a haunted house where the ghost inside the house keeps trying to drive the family out. One of the most memorable ways that it does so is famously demonstrated on the poster for the film, which is a ghostly voice imploring the family to “Get out.”
However, beyond that film, the real inspiration for the movie/title comes from a popular Eddie Murphy routine from his stand-up film, Delirious. In the bit, Murphy compares how white people handle haunted houses in films to how black people would handle similar situations. In the most famous part of the bit, he references a black family that has moved into the Amityville house and hearing “Get Out,” and they immediately get out. Jordan Peele has specifically referenced that this was one of the inspirations for this film, showing how a black person would handle a typical horror situation.
THE OPENING SONG
The title theme of Get Out is a song called Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga. Jordan Peele put a lot of thought into every aspect of the film, including the music that went with it. Jordan Peele recalled discussing the music for the film with Michael Abels, who did the score for the movie:
I was into this idea of distinctly black voices and black musical references, so it’s got some African influences, and some bluesy things going on, but in a scary way, which you never really hear. So Abels wrote Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga, a song with lyrics in Swahilii.
When asked what the lyrics are, Peele explained:
The words are issuing a warning to Chris. The whole idea of the movie is “Get out!”—it’s what we’re screaming at the character on-screen. They go, “Brother, brother,” in English, and then something to the effect of, “Watch your back. Something’s coming, and it ain’t good.”
So right off the bat, the film is issuing a warning. And that is not the end of it!
The first music that we actually hear within the film, even before the credits, is in an opening sequence where Andre Hayworth (Lakeith Stanfield) is lost walking the streets of a suburb at night and gets attacked by a mystery man in a white Porsche wearing a mask. We later learn that this is Jeremy Armitage (Caleb Landry Jones), the youngest member of the evil Armitage clan. When Jeremy stops his car and pulls over to abduct Andre, Jeremy is listening to the Flanagan and Allen song, Run Rabbit Run. The song is about a farmer going to shoot a rabbit for “rabbit pie” day, which is every Friday on the farm. They warn the rabbit to: “Don’t give the farmer his fun! Fun! Fun! He’ll get by without his rabbit pie run rabbit – run rabbit – Run! Run! Run!”
The song was popular in England in World War II. Besides the obsession with the past, which is clear in the film due to the fact that the Armitages plan to keep on living forever (and the eldest Armitage’s obsession over his defeat by Jesse Owens back in 1936), the song is another warning to, in effect, “get out.”
CHILDISH GAMBINO GIVES US ONE LAST WARNING
After the opening theme, our first introduction to Chris is through a montage of his photographs while he gets ready in the morning and his girlfriend comes to meet him for their trip set to the tune of Childish Gambino’s hit song, Redbone.
The tune is all about paranoia and infidelity in a relationship (Redbone is a slang term for a black person with a lighter skin tone). The paranoia theme naturally tied the song well to this movie. Jordan Peele explained why he chose the song:
Well, first of all, I love the ‘Stay Woke’ [lyric] — that’s what this movie is about. I wanted to make sure that this movie satisfied the black horror movie audience’s need for characters to be smart and do things that intelligent and observant people would do.
That tied in with Peele’s Eddie Murphy reference from before, where he wanted to spotlight the “genre-savvy” response to a horror film from a typical black audience member.
ODE TO THE SHINING
As noted earlier, Jordan Peele is a really big fan of classic horror films. One of his favorite horror movies is the 1980’s The Shining. He even did a sketch on his old Comedy Central TV sketch series, Key and Peele, that was a parody of The Shining, with Peele playing a man (staying in Room 237, of course, which is the haunted room at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining) who becomes obsessed with the continental breakfast offered at the hotel where he was staying. We later learn that he was always at the hotel (much like Jack Torrance’s character in The Shining was shown to be at the hotel during the 1920s).
In one of the most subtle easter eggs in the film, while Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) is at the airport, worrying about where Chris is, we hear over the intercom a reference to flight number…237, of course.
MORE ABOUT THE SHINING
The opening sequence in the film, where Andre is kidnapped by Jeremy, begins with Andre lost as he tries to maneuver his way through a confusingly laid-out suburb (with way too similar street names) at night. The scene, of course, is mainly intended to evoke the death of Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was shot while walking in a Florida suburb at night back in 2012 (the opening scene is one of the few major changes to Peele’s original script, which he otherwise wrote in 2009).
However, the scene was also meant to evoke the feeling of John Carpenter’s Halloween, which turned a typical suburb into a killing field when Michael Myers returned home Halloween night. On top of all that, though, it was also intended as another sly reference to The Shining. Andre comments that walking through the confusing suburb is like walking through a “hedge maze,” which Peele noted was a reference to the famous ending of The Shining, in which the crazed Torrance freezes to death in a hedge maze after trying to kill his own son.
In one of the key sequences in the film, the Armitage family hosts their annual get-together, a tradition started by the grandfather of the family before he “died.” (Did you notice that all the white guests showed up inside back vehicles?) The whole party, of course, is actually an attempt for the various old, rich friends of the Armitage to get to meet Chris and size him up and see if they want to bid on being able to take control of his body. In addition, this sequence re-introduces Andre, who has since had his brain replaced by an old rich white man and is there at the get-together with his wife.
In a subtle clue as to how Chris does not belong at the gathering, Chris is decked out in a blue shirt, while nearly everyone else at the party is wearing some form of red, even if it is just a red handkerchief worn as a pocket square by the gentlemen in the audience. Amusingly enough, it appears as though the man who took over Andre’s body doesn’t have a red item of clothing, until his wife then gives him a red handkerchief, right when we realize that Andre is no longer, well, Andre.
One of the most notable scenes in the film is when the rich folks all get together to play a game of Bingo. However, instead of Bingo, what they’re actually doing is taking part in a silent auction for Chris’ body. Peele noted that a recurring theme within the movie is that the villains all play traditionally “white” games. Peele explained,
From a satirical standpoint, I use a lot of imagery that shows the elements of white culture that we’re not necessarily familiar with. There’s a lacrosse stick. There are bocce balls. Bingo plays a big part.
However, also note that the Bingo cards are all already stamped so that all of the rich white folks are “winners” right away. They all have “Bingo” before the game even begins. Do note, also, that the only Asian person in attendance has a different color Bingo card than the rest of the people.
A GREATER SCOPE OF VILLAINY
As noted, the one exception to the otherwise all-white audience at the get-together was a single older Asian man. He asks Chris how life as an African-American has been for him (Chris uses this as an excuse to try to get “Andre” to answer, and while he is talking, Chris takes his photo and the flash temporarily gives Andre control of his own body and he tries to quickly warn Chris to “get out”).
There’s also a party sequence in Get Out that pays homage to the Japanese character who turns up at the end of Rosemary’s Baby. It’s a scary turn in that film because when you see that guy, you realize this is not just a group of run-of-the-mill, Upper West Side devil worshippers. It’s an international cult. Therefore, this presumably speaks to the frightening scope of the Armitage cult.
While Chris is being prepared for the brain surgery that he will undergo where a rich blind art dealer will have most of his brain placed into Chris’ body, Chris’ friend, Rod, is back at Chris’ apartment, watching Chris’ dog and worrying about his friend. While Rod researches the situation further (including investigating Andre’s similar disappearance), a commercial comes on to the television and we hear “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
That is the slogan for the United Negro College Fund, a charitable organization founded by Frederick D. Patterson in 1944 (Patterson was at the time the head of the Tuskegee Institute, which later became a full-fledged university). It was coined in 1972 by Forest Long, of the advertising agency Young & Rubicam, for an ad campaign for the organization.
Amusingly enough, though, that is not an actual United Negro College Fund commercial in the film. Instead, it was the director of the film, Jordan Peele, doing that line in his best Morgan Freeman. Peele is a well-known impressionist. The sly little “cameo” by the director evokes the films directed by Alfred Hitchcock (which include a number of horror classics, like The Birds and Psycho), who always found a way to work a cameo of himself into his films, even in oblique ways (like a photograph of him in a newspaper).
HAVING A GREAT EYE
The two films that Jordan Peele has routinely cited as the biggest influences on Get Out were both based on novels by Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives. In The Stepford Wives (a 1975 film based on the 1972 Levin novel), a young woman named Joanna (Katharine Ross) moves to a small town in Connecticut with her husband and two children and slowly discovers that there is something horribly wrong with the other housewives in the town. In many ways, Get Out is to black people what Stepford Wives was to women.
It is, therefore, no surprise that Chris is a photographer just like Joanna was in The Stepford Wives. In both films, the keen eye of both their protagonists is consistently lauded. Therefore, it is all the more chilling when both of their eyes become deadened during their films.
But at least Chris had a happy ending…
In The Stepford Wives, Joanna’s best friend in the town is Bobbie (Paula Prentiss), a similarly free-thinking, independent wife and mother. Bobbie helps Joanna push back against the conventions of the town and later, when Joanna becomes more suspicious about something nefarious going on in Stepford, Bobbie also helps her investigate the town.
When Joanna discovers that the housewives are being replaced by robots, she learns that the vocabulary for the robots has some holes in them. One of them is the word “archaic.” When Bobbie is replaced by a robot later in the film, Joanna proves that she is not the real Bobbie by asking her what “archaic” means. She knows Bobbie knows the word, but the new Bobbie does not.
The same sequence occurs in “Get Out,” where Georgina does not understand the word “snitch” (she is, after all, a 100-year-old white woman), thereby giving away that there is something wrong with her.
What are your feelings on Get Out and what does “The Sunken Place” represent to you?