Get Out was a record breaker when it was released in February, 2017. It not only scored an almost perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes 99% (unusual for a horror film), it was also one of the top grossing films for the year, and broke the 100-million mark, which has never happened before for the debut film of an African-American writer/director. There’s already buzz that Jordan Peele’s suspenseful and engaging script will receive a Best Original Screenplay nod at the 2018 Academy Awards. Most important about Get Out, though, is that like all the best horror films that resonate, Peele’s film holds a mirror up to our society and allows us to gape in its terrifying reflection.
This beat sheet study will reveal many SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen the film—get out and see it now. Then return and check out Jordan Peele’s tight and enthralling story structure.
Written & Directed by: Jordan Peele
MITH Type: Domestic Monster
MITH Cousins: The Stepford Wives, The Visit, Fatal Attraction, Hard Candy, High-Rise, Play Misty For Me, The Lives of Others, Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Straw Dogs, Pacific Heights, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Poison Ivy, The Devils (Les Diaboliques), The Fan, Knife in the Water, Single White Female, The Crush, Swimfan, The Cable Guy, One Hour Photo, Repulsion
Opening Image: Andre Hayworth (Lakeith Stanfield), an African-American man, ventures at night around an affluent but spooky suburb. He’s searching for a particular house but is lost. Andre tells the person on the other end of the phone that he “sticks out like a sore thumb,” referring to the upscale white neighborhood. A sports car zooming the other direction flips a U-turn and rolls up to Andre. The creepy ‘30s song “Run Rabbit Run” plays from within the car. Feeling uncomfortable, Andre decides to take off, however, he’s too late—the driver, wearing a knight’s helmet, places Andre in a sleeper hold, rendering him unconscious. The helmeted assailant then drags Andre to the trunk of the car, dumping him in like a bundle of laundry.
Theme Stated: A credit montage begins with the title GET OUT in sky-blue letters burning on the screen. Woods blur past as we’re moving along a rustic route. This imagery is a flash forward to the journey that the protagonist will soon take. On the soundtrack, some eerie, disembodied voices chant the words, “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga.” These are Swahili words that roughly translate to “listen to (your) ancestors,” as the song’s lyrics warn that “something bad will come. Run.” Often the theme is spoken to the main character, mostly without knowing what is said will be vital to his/her surviving this tale. The Theme is what your movie is “about.”
Set-Up: After that unsettling opening title sequence, we find ourselves in the apartment of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya). He’s a photographer with an amazing eye, who has captured urban landscapes in stunning, black and white stills. He’s packing to leave town. Chris is listening to a song by Childish Gambino. The lyrics of the song tell the listener to “stay woke,” which echoes the theme in the title sequence. Will Chris keep his eyes and ears about him? Will he indeed “stay woke” for this dangerous journey? His girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) shows up with some pastries and a kiss. Chris is feeling a bit nervous about going to Rose’s parents’ house in the country for the weekend. Rose has never told her parents that Chris is black. Rose assures Chris that her parents are uber-liberal and would have voted for Obama for a third presidential term if he had run. Rose says that Chris has nothing to worry about.
Soon, Chris and Rose are on the road, the familiar trees of the opening titles blurring past. Rose drives. Chris receives a call from his best friend, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), who’s watching Chris’ dog for the weekend. Rod is a TSA officer.
B Story: Rod is the “helper story” who also carries the theme. Typically, this is the love story, and Rose makes a joke about a kind of “love triangle” between Rod, her, and Chris, which annoys Chris. Rod tells Chris not to go, as a general rule, never go to a white girlfriend’s parents’ house, echoing the theme of “something bad will come.” Chris ignores this and this is his sin, which will later allow the monster to thrive. Rod is the voice of the audience and adds humor, which helps relieve us from much of the story’s suffocating tension.
Catalyst: Rose hits a deer as it darts across the road. The dying doe moans somewhere in the wood line. Chris leaves the car to check it out. He’s crossing a threshold here that doesn’t seem normal for him as he finds the deer. It visibly affects him. At first, it seems to be empathy toward the dying animal, but we learn later that what happened here is much more deep-seated in Chris’ mind.
Debate: A Caucasian police officer asks Rose and Chris about the accident. Even though Chris wasn’t driving, the officer asks to see Chris’ ID. Rose sticks up for Chris, accusing the white officer of bullying an innocent black man in so many words. Later, Chris is turned on by the exchange that Rose would risk herself for him.
Soon, Chris meets Rose’s parents. The Armitages live in an affluent country mansion secluded by a thick forest of pines. Though Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) are accommodating, Chris is a little unsettled that the Armitage’s have two African-Americans working for them: Georgina (Betty Gabriel), the maid, and Walter (Marcus Henderson), the groundskeeper. Mr. Armitage assures Chris it’s not how it looks. He wanted to keep Georgina and Walter employed with the family after his parents died. Dean also mentions how his father, Roman Armitage, lost to Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics. “He almost got over it,” Dean says with a smile.
Missy notices that Chris is fidgeting at the table. He’s a smoker who’s having nicotine withdrawals. Missy, a hypnotherapist, offers to hypnotize Chris to get rid of his unhealthy habit. Dean says Missy hypnotized him and he stopped smoking immediately. A little unsettled about somebody poking around in his head, Chris declines.
Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), Rose’s brother, shows up. He’s a rather forward member of the family and a skilled jujitsu practitioner who marvels at Chris’ strong-looking frame and plays a few weird head games.
Break into Two: Later in their room, Rose is a little off-put by her parents being kindly condescending to Chris. Chris doesn’t say much. Later, he wakes up, still aching for a cigarette. Here’s where we leave the brightly lit thesis world behind and enter the upside-down anti-thesis world of Act Two. It’s dark and creepy and made more so when Chris goes outside to smoke and sees Walter running right toward him in a mad sprint—and, through the window, Georgina looking at herself in the mirror in an odd way. Something strange is going on here.
As he sneaks back into the house, Chris is caught by Missy, who insists he take a seat in her study. She’s upset that Chris is a smoker who engages in his toxic habit around her daughter. She has a cup of tea, gently stirring it with a spoon. The effect is hypnotic. Missy starts asking questions about Chris’ past. We learn that he was 11-years-old and at home watching TV when his mother was killed by a hit-and-run driver and left dying in the road (this explains Chris’ interest in the deer Rose hit). Chris has a nervous habit of scratching his nails into wood, which he does in the arms of the chair. And like that, he’s hypnotized. Missy tells him that Chris is now in “the sunken place,” a dark void somewhere in Chris’ mind where he can only see what’s happening out of a tiny rectangular window (that resembles a TV screen or a camera’s viewfinder), but is powerless to do anything.
Fun and Games: Chris wakes up the next morning a little unsettled. He tells Rose that he thinks her mom hypnotized him. Rose then notices a throng of expensive black cars, like a funeral procession, rolling up the drive. She forgot that it’s her parents’ special weekend that they have every year. Affluent, elderly white people emerge from the cars.
They each meet Chris, all admiring him in odd ways and making unusual comments about his blackness that makes him uncomfortable, as if they’re referring to a prized bull. Chris has his camera with him to use as a kind of “social shield” when he lenses in the only other black man at the garden party. He walks up to the man, who’s dressed in garb that can only be described as Old White Dude Chic. The black man is named Logan King (also played by Lakeith Stanfield) and is with an older white woman, Philomena King (Geraldine Singer). Chris is puzzled by Logan’s domestic behavior and demeanor.
Chris meets Jim Hudson (Stephen Root) who is a respected art gallery owner in the city. Jim is blind and treats Chris like a human being. The art dealer wishes that he had Chris’ gift to make compelling images. Jim says he’d love to do a show of Chris’ photographs, which would be a boon to Chris’ career.
With all this strange socializing being a bit too much, Chris bolts upstairs to the guest bedroom he’s staying in. His phone is unplugged and almost out of juice. Who unplugged it and why?
Midpoint: Chris calls Rod, crossing A and B stories. Chris tells him that Missy may have hypnotized him last night and that meeting Logan King was weird. Rod, always the TSA officer, has a bit of a suspicious and conspiratorial side and “explains” to Chris what’s going on—black people are being hypnotized by Missy and being turned into “sex slaves.” Rod goes into a hilarious analogy about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and his sex slave victims (which shouldn’t be funny) and this makes Rod’s explanation of what’s going on seem crackpot. Chris hangs up on him.
Georgina appears in the doorway. She explains that she was dusting around the room and may have accidentally unplugged Chris’ phone. When Chris tries to speak with Georgina, who’s acting bizarre, he gets an eerie vibe from her, like she’s struggling with something deep inside her.
Bad Guys Close In: Chris takes his phone and goes back to join the party. When one of the guests asks Chris about what the “black experience” is like, Chris defers the question over to the boater hat-wearing Logan in the Old White Dude Chic attire. As Logan is fumbling his way with an explanation, Chris snaps a picture of Logan with his phone—except he left the flash on. Logan immediately stops talking and freezes, like he’s gone into a trance. And then like he’s awakened from being another person, Logan rushes up to Chris, his nose bleeding, and tells him to “Get out!” Several of the guests wrestle Logan and take him away to Missy’s study.
Chris takes Rose off to a quiet place by a lake and explains everything that’s going on and that he has to get out immediately. Rose is taken aback, not sure of what Chris is getting at, but Chris is determined. He’s leaving with or without his girlfriend.
While Chris is with Rose, the group of garden party guests is playing “bingo” out by the gazebo. No, that’s not it. Dean Armitage stands in front of a framed picture of Chris. The white folks, like in the slavery days of old, are actually bidding on him using their bingo cards. After a tense and ominous race to buy Chris, Jim Hudson, the blind art dealer, wins the bid.
All Is Lost: Chris returns back to the house with Rose. Night has fallen. The affluent guests have left. Only the Armitage family—Dean, Missy, and Jeremy—remain. There’s now an even weirder vibe. Chris texts the photo of Logan King to Rod. In the fastest response in movie history, Rod quickly calls back and says “That’s Dre.” Rod explains that “Logan King” is actually Andre Hayworth (the man abducted in the Opening). This is the point of the story where the protagonist breaks down internally (the disintegration of old beliefs) and externally (as actual bad guys tighten their grip). Chris now has confirmation that there’s something definitely wrong. Taking Rod’s previous advice as well as Logan’s (AKA Andre), it’s indeed time to get out as the stakes are raised and the clock starts ticking. Chris is “woke.”
Chris tells Rose to pack, and as he does the same, he sees a closet door ajar that piques his curiosity (it did earlier in Fun and Games). This time, being woke, he acts on his curiosity and looks inside. He finds a shoebox filled with photos—of Rose with other black people. In the Set-Up, she said Chris was the first black person she’s ever dated. Apparently, that’s not true. There’s pictures of Walter, Andre, and Georgina with Rose—and look what happened to them. They’re each acting robotic as if they have no will of their own. Is Chris next in some nefarious, elaborate plot?
Rose shows up. It’s now tense between them. Chris says they need to leave and heads downstairs with Rose following him. Problem is, she can’t find her car keys.
The Armitage family all congregate around Chris. The once seemingly inviting, upscale home has now taken on a sinister edge, as well as have the seemingly happy-go-lucky Armitages. Rose admits she can’t give Chris the keys—they’re not leaving. As Chris decides to exit stage left on his own, Jeremy, who’s been waiting to spar with Chris, grapples with him. However, now that Missy has Chris’ will, all she has to do is tap her tea cup with a spoon to return his mind back into “the sunken place” and his body and will are hers to control.
Jeremy and Dean wrestle Chris down into the basement as the victim watches, helpless to do anything. This is the false defeat and the place where we find the whiff of death—because something must die here. In this case, it’s Chris’ will. He’s at the mercy of these people. What exactly are they planning to do with him?
Rod does some research online and discovers Andre “Dre” Hayworth has been missing for six months, crossing A and B stories. He knows Chris is in trouble.
Dark Night of the Soul: Chris wakes up in the basement. It’s a kind of antiquated rec room with oak wainscoting, bocce balls, the horned head of a buck on the wall, and a vintage television console in the middle of the room. Chris sits in a stuffed chair, his arms tied and legs tied down. What’s going to happen to him? Why has he been forsaken? This is the portion of the story where the protagonist has lost all hope. Nobody is coming to his aid. He’s “naked” and alone.
The television snaps on and we finally learn, as Chris does, what’s going on. It seems that Dean’s father, Roman Armitage (Roman being a nice Ira Levin homage to the mastermind Roman Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby) has discovered the secret to immortality via The Coagula Procedure. The Armitages are part of a traditional, underground group that’s Illuminati-like. They have some sinister plans for Chris, it seems, but what exactly?
Back in the city, Rod goes to the police and tells them what’s going on. Unfortunately, he adds some of his conspiracy theories about “black people being made into sex slaves” and the detectives only laugh at him. His best friend is in trouble and the authorities aren’t helping, what’s he going to do? This is a dark time for Rod and the relentless clock is ticking.
Rod has called Chris several times but his friend doesn’t answer the phone. He tries again and Rose answers. She says that Chris left two days ago via cab and left his phone. Rod knows she’s lying and tries to record the conversation. Rose makes up a story about Rod always wanting her behind Chris’ back. Disgusted, Rod hangs up. Rose has played him, just like she did Chris, and Rod knows it. What’s his next move?
The television snaps on again and this time it’s Jim Hudson, the blind art dealer. He says that he can answer any questions Chris may have. It’s part of the pre-op. Pre-op? The Coagula Procedure, perfected by brain surgeon Dean, takes the “superior” mind of the white person and places that brain into the “superior” physicality of a young black person. This way, the group member can keep the longevity of himself, his wife, and his family alive forever. It’s neo-slavery for the 21st century. Unfortunately to the hapless body “donor,” they become a kind of zombie, a Stepford Wife, if you will (another Levin reference), with no will of their own. All the hypnotism was a way to prepare the mind for the surgery. “Black is in fashion” as one guest had pointed out earlier. In this case, Jim Hudson, the surgery recipient, will gain Chris’ amazing “eye” for photography.
Break into Three: Chris has a habit of drumming his fingers or scratching when he’s nervous. He’s so nervous here, knowing he’s going to literally lose his mind, he tears the upholstery of the chair he’s tied to and stuffing comes spilling out. He bends over and uses the cotton stuffing to seal his ears against being hypnotized again. (In a brilliant bit of symbolism and irony, the cotton frees the African-American man from slavery.) This “new inspiration” that gives Chris hope is a perfect Break into Three moment where the hero chooses to fight.
1. Gathering of the Team – Jeremy shows up in hospital scrubs to retrieve Chris for his brain surgery. Chris acts hypnotized. When Jeremy isn’t looking, Chris clubs him hard with a bocce ball, killing him. This portion of the story is the synthesis of the previous two worlds: From what was, and that which has been learned, the hero forges a third way, as Chris does.
2. Executing the Plan – Chris grabs the buck head off the wall and then impales Dean with the antlers. The brain surgeon falls on a ceremonial candle in the surgery room which causes some drapery to ignite. Chris bolts upstairs and to the front door. He confronts Missy who is taken by surprise. She goes for the tea cup and spoon to hypnotize him again but Chris is faster, smashing it. Missy then attacks Chris with a letter opener, but our newly awakened hero bests her with the weapon.
3. High Tower Surprise – As Chris is heading out the front door, Jeremy, like a masked killer in a slasher film, turns up for one last scare—he’s still alive. He wrestles with Chris and is a challenge, being a more skilled fighter than Chris. Using his intelligence, Chris is able to defeat Jeremy and put him down for the last time.
4. Dig Deep Down – Chris jumps into Jeremy’s sports car. As he turns over the ignition, “Run Rabbit Run” plays on the stereo. There’s a knight’s helmet in the passenger seat. It was Jeremy in the Opening who kidnapped Andre Hayworth. As Chris zooms away from the burning Armitage house, calling 911, Georgina appears in the headlights. He hits her. Chris stops the car and climbs out. This time he’s going to do something after a hit-and-run (that he couldn’t do for his mother or the deer). He helps Georgina into the car. Georgina, (who’s really Grandma Armitage), attacks Chris. The sports car wraps around the tree, killing her.
Rose, completely different from who she was at the beginning of the film, like she’s two different people, shows up with a hunting rifle. She fires at Chris and sics the marathon-running Walter (who’s actually Grandpa Roman Armitage) after Chris.
Chris climbs out and is attacked by Walter. Using his skill as a photographer, Chris pulls out his smartphone and snaps a photo of his assailant using the flash. This immediately snaps Walter out of his hypnosis. Rose shows up with the rifle to put Chris down. Walter tells her to give him the rifle, he’ll do it. When she obeys, he turns the rifle on Rose, blasting her with a fatal shot to the stomach. To free himself, Walter then turns the rifle on himself, ending his mental slavery forever.
5. Executing New Plan – Rose is dying in the road. Chris, who wants to make sure she does die and the last of the Armitage legacy is finished, starts to strangle her. Rose smiles as he begins this murderous act. Chris stops, knowing that she’ll steal his soul and his humanity if he kills her. It’s now what she wants.
Red and blue lights flash and a siren sounds. It doesn’t look good for Chris, a black man, on top of a white woman in the middle of the road, especially since he had so much trouble from the police officer earlier in Debate. But it’s Rod in his TSA car. A and B stories cross for the final time. He came to his best friend’s rescue. Chris climbs into the car. And Chris asks Rod how he found him. “I’m T-S-motherfucking-A,” Rod says. “We handle shit. That’s what we do. Consider this situation fucking handled.”
Final Image: Chris and Rod drive away leaving Rose to die in the road. Chris, who has dramatically transformed since the opening minutes of the film, is a sad and bloody but wiser man. He survived with his body and soul intact. He got out after all.
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