When trying to figure out what, exactly, about Get Out I wanted to write about once I’d seen it, I did some thinking and I did some note making and I did quite a bit of reading.
The obvious angle to take is on the blisteringly intelligent racial commentary; in the past couple of hours I’ve read a majority of articles that really tuned into it with some enlightening — and alarming — insight. On the other hand I’ve also read a minority of articles that, blatantly from a position of embarrassingly blinkered white privilege, wilfully and selfishly miss the point on said racial commentary at the heart of the film.
I don’t consider myself qualified in any way – I find it fascinating and upsetting and superbly explored, but other than that, I have nothing to bring to that particular table which I could offer with any worth or insight. It’s not a part of the film that can or should be ignored, however, and it serves as an excellent starting point for what I did decide I wanted to talk about with Get Out.
I’ve most often seen it referred to as a racially motivated slasher movie – and no, I don’t buy that. It doesn’t sit well with me. I get where the label comes from, but I don’t think the label sticks. It curls up and falls on the floor and gets stuck to itself and you have to screw it up and throw it out. Get Out isn’t a slasher movie.
I’ve also seen that levelled at the question, but is it paranoia when they’re really watching you? I don’t think at any point in the film does Chris genuinely believe he’s just being paranoid; at no point do the audience believe he’s just being paranoid.
The question isn’t is there something going on other than abject weirdness, it’s what is going on other than abject weirdness and who is actually involved, because it’s plain to see. No, Get Out isn’t a paranoid thriller, either.
I’d argue it’s very much its own thing. That’s an unusual thing nowadays, especially in the realm of horror, but I think Get Out successfully avoids genre classification.
There’s no getting away from that. It might involve political, racial or social commentary, but that’s not an unusual thing for a horror movie – horror as allegory or metaphor is hardly a new concept, especially in the realm of slashers. From Halloween and its post-Vietnam commentary on suburban values through to Friday 13th and its questioning of youthful morality.
That’s perhaps where the slasher label on Get Out comes from, at least partially; it also certainly features tropes of the slasher movie, from the setup to the supporting character story roles, the final act spree and at the other end of the movie, the prologue.
It moves them. It changes them. It starts out with a recognisable trope, then flips it or uses it for an entirely different purpose. The old adage that The Black Guy Dies First In A Slasher is so common because it’s commonly true; Get Out subverts that particular trope, entirely flipping it from end to end. In that regard, it isn’t a slasher movie so much as it is a commentary on the mechanics and formula of the slasher.
The structure of the plot is far more reminiscent of a thriller or a classic mystery. Chekhov’s Gun is put to phenomenal use — where nothing is accidental, everything relevant later on is introduced earlier on — with some seamless, organic writing that makes light of important material so that you never realise its importance until later on.
It’s a brilliant example of cyclical writing – a film that never introduces something simply to facilitate plot, where everything neatly circles backward without feeling forced or artificial. While you’re feeling smug that you cottoned onto the spoon before Chris did, there’s a whole multitude of throwaway lines and signifiers that you’ve overlooked until later on, from hair brushing to remarks on fashion.
I’m not going to get into the brain-deadening topic of semiotics, but removed from the slasher and removed from the mystery thriller, Get Out is sharply film literate. It uses symbolism and framing in a way quite unlike other horrors or staple genre movies – the deer is a patently obvious one, but it’s a good example. It blends into that cyclical writing, it signifies a lot of what Chris represents and what his situation represents to him, and is a loudspeaker to the audience for everything the film is trying to elicit.
The first act is a thriller, the second is a masterpiece of tension building. The third act is more straight out horror and the closest to a slasher that the movie gets, whilst unexpectedly embracing science fiction. Everything behind it all is chilling horror, but what Get Out is, at the core, is neither one thing nor another, and that is certainly not a criticism. It takes hallmarks and genre trappings and makes them into something new, piecing them carefully together so they fit organically.
It’s very well written and very well directed and has some great performances, but the film’s identity was the thing that struck me the most as such an achievement. The little horror that could, Get Out has managed to defy audience expectation and offered up something new by honouring and adapting from a multitude of places.
The true achievement in that is not appearing as a patchwork, as some kind of ill-fitting celluloid Frankenstein’s monster, but as something whole that you still can’t really peg. In the same way that the film neatly defies expectation, it defies neat classification and that is one of its masterstrokes as a truly effective horror – there are things we recognise as an audience, story elements and genre tropes that are familiar, but they’re all displaced and subverted and unexpectedly conjoined.
If that’s your kind of discussion, my man, you might want to follow The Onslaught or head on over to Twitter where you’ll find I’m very much in fashion.
Oh no. No. No no no.