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Get Out - Horror in the Pine Tree South

Get Out is a horror movie of sorts, in particular a racial horror movie. It was written and directed by Jordan Peele and is his directorial debut. It stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, also featuring Catherine Keener (Missy Armitage), Bradley Whitford (Dean Armitage) and Stephen Root. The film starts out reminding me of that 1960ís Sidney Poitier vehicle, Guess Whoís Coming to Dinner, except that it goes way past an uncomfortable meeting of generations theme (complicated by race), right into something much worse.

Get Out starts when white Rose Armitage is bringing her black boyfriend, Chris Washington, to her parents house for dinner and a weekend visit. Chris and Rose live in New York, her parents live somewhere rural, way down south in the pine tree zone, in a large plantation-like house. In spite of some of the usual foreshadowings that happen in horror movies, in this case a deer/car accident, made more ominous by the stereotypic racist cop, they manage to arrive at Roseís parentsí house and find themselves being made surprisingly welcome. Roseís parents seem completely at ease with her choice of a boyfriend and go out their way to make him feel comfortable. Rose and Chris are surprised to find that Roseís parents are expecting company for dinner, a large group of similar white, older, affluent, preppy-looking southerners who also surprise the audience by being completely at ease, in spite of the obvious cultural gap. The guests seem to have an odd, special interest in Chris. Roseís parents also have a son, Jeremy, an odd, threatening person, the sort of guy the audience immediately recognizes as the family member who probably belongs to the Klan. Heís superficially polite, but we know heís up to no good, that heís some sort of psychopath. Whatís additionally ominous, is that Roseís parents have two African American servants, played by Marcus Henderson (the groundskeeper - ďWalterĒ) and Betty Gabriel (the maid - ďGeorgianaĒ), both of whom are treated well in that ďOle SouthĒ sort way and seem mentally vacant.

As the night progresses, things get weirder. Roseís mother Missy is a psychologist who uses hypnosis. She wants to hypnotize Chris. Chris speculates that she wants to make him into a sex slave but she claims to be able to do away with his phobias. Rose agrees that they should probably leave. This is when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan. Chrisís friend back in New York finds strange things about the family on the web. The only other black guest at the party is in some sort of strange, zombie-like state. Chris gets really scared. Iíll not go any further on the plot, because you probably already have figured out that Roseís family is up to NO GOOD.

When I saw Get Out, I havenít heard much about it, but noticed that, at that moment, it was sitting at 100 on Rotten Tomatoes. That made me curious. I enjoyed the movie, but I also think that 100 is way too high. Iím not sure how that happened, especially given the usual lower marks that horror movies get. The basic plot idea, the black buy with the white girlfriend, in the rural south seemed like an obvious setup, playing on the audienceís expectation of the too-good-to-be-true older white southerners. The turn to horror is not what the audience probably expects but has a bizarre twist thatís much stranger than conventional racism and fits much better into the horror movie setup. Iíve seen comments that the movie is revealing some sort of truth about these racially charged family situations in American life, but really, itís not. It can be bad, but itís not like this. The obvious exaggeration risks moving over to comedy but itís a long way from social commentary. Fortunately, however, the movie plays it off well, adding some deliberate humor to dilute the silliest aspect of the horror setup.

All aspects of the production and performances in the movie are way above the usual expectations of horror movie running and screaming. Chris and Rose come off as real people and Chrisís increasing danger engages the audience. The plot line might be over the top, but acting and direction keep it from ruining the movie. I enjoyed Get Out, as did the enthusiastic audience. You wanted to tell Chris to, as the title suggests, GET OUT!!, as soon as they see the parentís house, but you know that it wonít be easy. Get Out is full of conventional horror movie devices, mostly carried off well. As a plot element, race is a factor, but not a contrived one at all and not a cheap exploitation. Iím as white as Roseís family (though not malevolent), but I identified with Chris, and wanted him to get the heck out.Örun and donít stop ítil youíre out of the state. That made the movie work well for me. I donít think itís a great movie by any means (not a ď100Ē), but I did think it was much better than these sort of teen-night-out horror flicks usually are. It's enjoyable with a sympathetic character in a horrific situation and doesn't resort to an excessive amount of obvious horror movie devices.