Editor’s Note- The Academy Awards is March 4, 2018. We have asked our resident Movie Reviewer, Wells Thompson, to review several of the movies up for Academy Awards leading up to the Oscars.
Horror as a genre is probably the most marginalized storytelling method in any media. In literature, few horror writers are ever recognized in the literary canon outside of Edgar Allan Poe, and in film, horror is often dismissed as a medium for cheap jump scares and bloody gross-outs. To date, only one horror movie, The Silence of the Lambs, has ever won Best Picture, and only a handful have ever been recognized for writing, acting, or directing. To that end, horror was probably the best choice for three-time Oscar-nominated writer/director Jordan Peele to present his debut film, Get Out.
Already a year old, Get Out remains as discussed and relevant today as it was the moment it was released, and for good reason. Using its simple premise, that of a black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time (see Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), Get Out manages to be a gripping character piece, a commentary on racism and the marginalization of black people in the western world, and a really creepy horror story all at once. It’s a film that nails virtually everything it sets out to do and, as a result, it’s layers of meaning and metaphorical brilliance have already been discussed to a startling degree.
So rather than me, for example, talk about how, as a white person, the horror derives from the fear that you might have accidentally treated black people in a similar way as the villains of the story (spoiler alert: you probably have), I’d like to talk about how the story itself is executed. Simple premise aside, Get Out is a complex narrative that, in less capable hands, could easily be a sloppy, convoluted, bloated mess. Yet, in just 1 hour 44 minutes, Get Out accomplishes what other films can’t in a 3 hours run time. The reason why isn’t just basic, it’s the first thing they teach you in nearly any writing class: Get Out is obsessed with its characters’ motivation.
The movie moves forward in its plot based solely on what each character wants and how they react to get it. Chris Washington (Best Actor nominated Daniel Kaluuya) ignores the weird, passively racist things said to him by the Armitage family and their guests because he wants to make a good impression. This causes him to miss or misinterpret the increasingly creepy behavior of those around him until it’s too late.
Conversely (no spoilers here), when the third act kicks in, Chris’s motivation is just to get out. By focusing on this, the movie avoids pitfalls of similar horror films; there are no prolonged monologues or blown out confrontations, the film just moves forward, cutting out anything that isn’t what Chris wants in that moment.
That’s not to say that Chris’s motivation is the only one that matters in the film or even that all motivations are as straightforward and obvious. Half of what makes Get Out a horror film is the uncertainty the audience has about each character’s goal, which is what makes the twist so effective and the film infinitely rewatchable. By doing this one, simple thing that so many other movies miss, Get Out is able to present itself as a lean, satisfying narrative, while also having room for incredible performances, horror, intellectual debate, powerful metaphors, and, according to the Golden Globes, comedy.
It’s rare to watch a movie and know, in the moment, that it’s going to be a classic. By relying so strongly on one of the most basic storytelling principles, Get Out is able to provide something for every type of moviegoer. It’s a solid movie that works on a basic entertainment level while still providing depth and content for people who want more complexity out of a film.
It’s no wonder that Get Out is nominated for four major academy awards and has a real shot at becoming the second horror film ever to win Best Picture. If nothing else (and there is so much more to talk about), Get Out is a shining example of the importance of basic principles. Without that skeleton, all the cleverness, shock, and suspense means nothing.
If you’re not a fan of horror films in general, give this one a shot. If there’s one film that most deserves to win Best Picture, it’s this one, not just because it is an excellent horror film, not just because it is a brilliant analysis of racial tensions in America, but because it is an unequivocally well-made movie that anyone can enjoy. It’s streaming on HBO and available anywhere you can buy or rent movies. Honestly, I don’t know what more you need to know, just get out and experience it, you absolutely cannot afford to miss it.
Wells is a freelance writer specializing in fiction and narrative commentary. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas’s English program, Wells spends much of his time at Blue Sail Coffee, frantically writing down articles for this website or editing a novel that’s just one fifteen more drafts from being complete.