Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 43 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 5; Language 7; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
See how they conceive evil,
and are pregnant with mischief,
and bring forth lies.
They make a pit, digging it out,
and fall into the hole that they have made.
Their mischief returns upon their own heads,
and on their own heads their violence descends.
I am not a fan of horror films, but was won over by first-time director Jordan Peele’s (half of the comedy team Key & Peele) gripping film. He has managed to combine humor with some keen, and timely, social commentary that shows up the shallowness of some whites who regard themselves as free of racism. The result is a satirical film that makes us laugh while also feeling terribly uneasy about what happens next to the characters.
At first Mr. Peele’s film brings to mind Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? as the interracial couple Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) prepare to visit her parents out in the country. A photographer whose work is beginning to attract a following, he is uneasy that she has not mentioned to her parents that he is black. Not to worry, she assures him—they would have voted for Obama a third time if it had been possible.
In route, after their van is hit by a deer not far from their destination, Rose pushes back at the traffic cop, who demands to see Chris’s ID, even though she had been driving. He is proud of the way she calls him out on what is a case of racial profiling. The two parents, Dean and Missy ((Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) greet Chris warmly. He is a neurosurgeon and she a hypnotherapist, so their home is very upscale.
“We’re huggers,” Dean says as he embraces Chris—and yes, he does say a little later that they would have voted for Obama a third time. However, his observation about the deer they had killed is a bit chilling, conjuring up words used by the Nazis regarding Jews and other undesirables. He declares that deer are a nuisance that need to be “wiped out,” so their killing one is a good thing, leading up to the elimination of them all because they have been “breeding like rats.” When Missy learns that Chris is addicted to cigarettes, she offers to cure him, but he declines
In a scene that is reminiscent of The Stepford Wives, Chris is uncomfortable when introduced to the family’s two live-in black servants, handyman Walter (Marcus Henderson) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel). The latter at first looks as cheerful as Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben in those magazine ads of the Fifties with their pasted-on smile, but then her eyes seem to glaze over, giving her a zombie look. During tea, Georgina spills over Chris’s cup when she mysteriously spaces out.
Chris keeps in touch by cell phone with is buddy Rod (LilRel Howery), a TSA worker so deeply suspicious of whites that he had advised him not to go on the trip. This will turn out to be a good thing.
That night a series of events disturbs Chris, from Rose’s strangely aggressive brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) during dinner, to Walter running wildly toward Chris when the latter gets up in the middle of the night to sneak outdoors for a smoke. Most disturbing of all is his encounter upon re-entering the house. Missy invites him to sit down as she stirs her cup of tea, the spoon and its scraping sound hypnotizing him. Seemingly floating in space, he returns to his boyhood tragedy of watching TV during the night when his mother was killed by a hit and run driver. He is haunted that he did not call the police when she failed to return, and thus she had bled to death on the road.
At the annual gathering of the Armitage’s friends the next day, Chris really begins to worry about their situation. All the couples are middle-aged (and up), and, like the Armitages on the day before, make inappropriate remarks while espousing that they are accepting of blacks. The party almost breaks up when a woman shows up with a black man about Chris’s age (Keith Stanfield). Chris tries to talk with him, but he seems as vacant as Walter and Georgina. (Look closely and see if he does not appear to be the same man abducted by a masked man while walking at night through a white neighborhood.)
Going to his room Chris has a confrontation with Georgina and then calls Rod, telling him that the black dude he has just met looks familiar. Rod tells him to get and send his picture, and he will look into it. Hanging up, Chris does so. However, he had forgotten to turn off the flash of his cell phone camera. Momentarily blinded the black guest freaks out, shouting to Christ the words that give the film it’s title, “Get Out! Get the f— out while you can!”
From this point on the film veers toward the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with the action quickly becoming bloody after Christ discovers a collection of photographs of Rose and former boyfriends, so disturbing that he wants to run away immediately. But will he be able to make it out of the house?
The evilness of the villains is as bizarre as those of any others in the horror film genre, but their motives seem to be exactly what Rod had claimed, that white people love to have sex slaves. Though totally fictional, Mr. Peele’s film agrees with Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th in which she carefully lays out the case that slavery was not abolished by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Instead racist leaders in the South and the North allowed it to be transformed into the Jim Crow Laws that kept blacks in bondage, and then when they were struck down because of the Civil Rights Movement, whites created the wars on crime and drugs that criminalized black males and removed them from their ghettoes to the prison system.
Of course, Peele leaves a lot to the imagination, providing no back store explaining how the Armitage family arrived at their current position, but this is a fantasy/horror story, not a documentary. It is one which you will long remember, not I hope because of the blood and gore of the last (and weakest) section of the film, but because of its unusual amount of social commentary. This is a film designed both to scare us for a moment and to make the more discerning of the audience think when they leave the theater, something done by very few films of this genre.
This review with a set of questions will be in the March 2017 issue of VP.