I was recently told by a fellow writer that it’s ok to sacrifice your concept to make a good scene. I’m not sure I agree with him, but the idea of maintaining readers expectations well enough that they can overlook holes in your story is a good one. Covering over an inconsistency with a joke is not beneath even such well-regarded filmmakers as Joss Whedon. In the Avengers, he explains how Bruce Banner, who famously becomes the Hulk when he can’t control his anger becomes the Hulk at will. “I’m always angry” as an explanation elucidates nothing but with charm and wit keeps the audience satisfied enough to lead into the next CGI-drenched action sequence.
To say that Jordan Peele’s new horror film “Get Out” comes highly reviewed is an understatement. It gets a 99% on the Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer (Whedon’s Avengers gets a 92%), and with good reason. In addition to being compelling, hilarious, and of course frightening, it offers social commentary of depth beyond what one would expect from the genre. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in horror movies or race relations. Spoilers follow.
When he visits the home of his white girlfriend’s parents, the protagonist Chris finds much more than he bargained for – specifically that his entire relationship is part of the plot to literally steal black bodies for the use of white people. The mystery is slowly revealed over the course of the movie as the bizarre behavior of the black people at the estate begins to boil over, but ultimately the explanation does not mesh with all of what we have seen leading up to it.
The fact that the man and woman who turn out to be the grandparents of the household spend the whole time acting like servants is relatively easily explained – they are pretending for the benefit of the guests. This leaves questions of why, especially if they can’t do a better job of pretending, they don’t just stay at a hotel for a while, but it’s good enough to pass muster. This mysterious unexplained theme of servitude, however, continues in the young black man who visits with his much older white wife. At one point in the conversation he states that he feels compelled to spend all of his time at home doing housework, a clear and creepy nod to slavery, but one that does not fit with the concept of white people taking the bodies of blacks to gain new abilities or live longer.
If you didn’t notice this inconsistency, that’s the brilliance of excellent storytelling. A story’s plot does not need to add up logically to be impactful. The themes of the movie were not all in service to the plot, and they came together to make something much more than a simple horror film. If you haven’t seen “Get Out,” don’t expect all the subtle hints and images to add up to a plot. They add up to something that is so much more.