While “Get Out” is a well constructed, highly entertaining horror film, it’s not the groundbreaking, socially conscious film it’s been so heavily hyped as.
There’s a growing trend with online critics; they aren’t critiquing anything.
It’s usually the standard 1000-word piece where some writer kisses up to a flawed (but followed) film in hopes of getting a group of like-minded people to share their words. That’s all fine and dandy (I enjoy a celebration piece or two, and there are a couple of fine writers on social media that I follow), but this will not be one of them pieces. And I will not proceed with caution.
I will review Get Out and see it for what it is, nothing more than a clever spin on an exploitive theme.
But the problems with Get Out isn’t in the execution; it’s really a talented and entertaining film; the problem is what it has to say, which is completely racially charged without proving any points.
What are themes? Themes are the heart of a story. The overall lesson. The theme of a film can usually be summed up in a single sentence. It can range from “Follow Your Dreams,” to “Take a Stand,” or to even quote Scott Howard’s famous words in Teen Wolf, “We don’t need the wolf!” In short, themes can teach us something about life.
The point is, when Teen Wolf has more of a theme going for it than a movie in 2017 involving racism, you know something isn’t right with present storytelling in Hollywood.
Slashers and Horror in general often lack themes, they aren’t made for us to learn lessons from, they are completely visceral, so we can’t penalize them too much for not delivering anything thought provoking. But therein lies the problem with Get Out, an extremely skilled horror film about something so ridiculously degrading for all races involved that I can’t help but wonder what the overall acceptance is really about.
The plot is about upper-class whites who secretly buy black people because a.) whites hate to chop wood (or hire someone to do it even though they can afford to buy a person), b.) can’t satisfy their women, or c.) because they are evil. There is even mention of using African Americans as vessels for the elderly, so Caucasians can live on in another body. How? In a sort of trance-like state, which really isn’t anything you’d want to go through. (My guess, it would be better to pass on to the next life than live as a sleeping slave for your children.)
What Jordan Peele (a writer/director who I admire) has simply done here is take The Stepford Wives approach and added a racist slant to it that adds up to little sense.
If the plot to Get Out is about purchasing African Americans due to their physical abilities, then the theme is about how Caucasians are inadequate, incompetent, evil, and will buy people, specifically African Americans, and you shouldn’t trust them, least of all, date them. The basic “message” here? I shouldn’t have to point it out. It’s obvious.
And this is the main problem I have with Get Out, the 2017 Oscar winner for best screenplay.
That specific “win” has somewhat even motivated this review. This movie has nothing to offer on the screenplay level that would warrant winning that award. It’s an exploitation movie, riding the wave of race fever that everyone seems to be caught up in, blinding them to what central messages are at work here.
There is nothing on Get Out’s plot of racism involving a theme that we can learn from. If the film hinted at any kind of lessons involving racism, we could have a contender for best story (which is what a screenplay essentially is, the story alone), but if it did anything like this, that lesson on racism flew right over my head.
I could probably ask anyone who watched the film, “What did you learn from it?” I’d bet the answers would be ridiculous and “fear based” against race. And this is almost like handing out an award for best screenplay to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
There was also another movie that came out in 2017 called The Shape of Water. It was a film that was hard to swallow, but it taught us about discrimination, acceptance, loyalty, and love, all revolving around a woman in love with a fish man of all things. It was well rounded, thought provoking, and kind of oddly terrific. You can say what you want about that film and its canvas, but at least it had thought-provoking themes with every stroke.
As a horror film, Get Out, does have an interesting spin. As a comedy, it’s even better. As a think piece, it’s not one.
Maybe if there was an award for horror at the Oscars, this film would have warranted a win; but there isn’t one. And maybe the film could have been more relevant if it was about social class and the elite’s view on all races on the bottom of the barrel, the reality of human trafficking, and less about glorifying one race while looking down on another.
I suppose people will always consider the film clever in some way. Maybe the fact that it is ok to look down on upper-class whites in a film and call them monsters is supposed to be some kind of accepting step for our society. It’s actually a giant step back, showing we have learned nothing from profiling.
In the end, Get Out is a wasted opportunity to deliver something profound in exchange for something exploitive; not to mention, offensive.
Don’t believe it’s offensive? Flip the stereotypes and roles. Let’s say that the black community has money and decides that since they can’t satisfy their wives, are too lazy to chop their own wood, and are into human trafficking, I ask you, would that be offensive? Now ask yourself this. If a white man made either film, would he be considered racist? What awards would that scenario win?
I will just call the film what it is: exploitation. But it’s clean, well-acted, well directed, often funny, and exciting-in-a-lot-of-ways exploitation. It unfolds nicely and any sign of amateur hour is out the window. If only it wasn’t disguised as something more profound than what it actually is. ‘Get Out’ just didn’t have much to say amidst all the talent. Actually, it had a lot to say, and all of it was racially motivated.
It’s a shame the opportunity to deliver a thought provoking movie about racism or social status was squandered on exploitation. Jordan Peele almost had something here. But will I watch Get Out more in my lifetime than a film like The Shape of Water? You betcha. Like I pointed out, it’s entertaining, funny, unfolds nicely, has great performances, and has a fantastic wit, even if it is racist.
Hating on it for its racism would be like hating A Clockwork Orange for its violence, another film I admired; I mean, skill is skill, right? Maybe this film warranted an Oscar win after all. Change the category from best screenplay to best Horror or Exploitation Film and you’d have no arguments from me. In fact, you would even get my vote.