Cinematography in Get Out: The Run-Down

Written by: Jenna Moloney

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, cinematography is “the art or science of motion-picture photography.” It also defines science as “the state of knowing,” and art as “a skillful plan.” To summarize, cinematography is the carefully planned use of moving images to convey a specific message. A cinematographer doesn’t just put a camera on a tripod and film an actor; they carefully choose angles which make the audience feel a certain way or suggest/foreshadow something. For example, filming an actor from below makes them look taller and more intimidating. Filming an actor from far away and allowing blank space behind them may suggest that something is about to pop out or come running after them. A cinematographer’s job is terribly difficult: every shot must be carefully planned to be sure they do not suggest something that is false or something the director doesn’t want the audience to know.

Get Out is a fiction film consisting of two major themes of science fiction and racism. Rather than fulfilling the requirements of a horror movie as it was advertised as, it ended up being more of a thriller. To summarize without spoilers, the movie is about an African American man who visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s family over the weekend. Soon, he begins to realize the family is racist and there are things that are “off” about all the other African Americans he meets while staying there. The ending does include some violence, and overall the audience leaves the theatre with a pretty good idea of what happens after the conclusion of the film.

Get Out’s cinematographer, Toby Oliver, clearly used space to his advantage. For example, when the main character, Chris, first enters his girlfriend’s parents’ house, the camera is very far away from them. We, as the audience, actually lose sight of the characters for a moment because the camera is in a completely different room and the wall separates us from the family. This makes the audience feel separated from this situation; we are not part of this family, we are on the outside spectating. This is the first moment where we don’t feel included in the love, but we start to see how dark and spacious the house is. This contrasts greatly with the close-up image of Chris when he is being hypnotized. His eyes are bloodshot and filled with fear, but the rest of his face is paralyzed. We feel this intense emotion with him because we are staring right into his soul with this shot.

The use of POV shots, or point of view shots, are very important in this film because we can actually see what Chris is seeing. One of these shots occurs when the black gardener is running toward him in the middle of the night. During one moment, Chris looks out into the field and sees nothing but grass and trees. The next moment, when he looks back, he sees a small figure in the distance that appears to be running. The camera cuts back to Chris to show him squint his eyes questioningly, and when the next POV shot occurs the man is getting closer and closer to Chris until he finally takes a turn so he does not hit him. Music accompanying this shot helps us to feel the true fear that Chris must have felt in that moment. Another example of a POV shot includes when Chris is in “the sunken place.” CGI is used to make Chris look as though he is floating in darkness with only a small screen showing him what is occurring in the real world. There are a few shots while he is here that shows darkness on all sides and a small screen showing the family and what they are doing in reality. These shots show exactly what Chris would actually be seeing in his situation. This shot is similar to the POV shot where Chris is sitting in the chair in the basement watching a television screen tell him exactly what is going to happen. The camera is a little bit above the screen’s level, as Chris would be, almost suggesting that Chris is looking down on his future in sadness and despair.

Close-up shots are very important in this film. As mentioned previously, the shot of Chris’ face as he is being hypnotized shows extreme emotion, which then makes the audience feel the same fear he is feeling. (This is the picture attached to this article.) Another close-up shot that is extremely crucial to the actual plot of the movie are the shots of the teacup that the mother is holding. Before the audience even knows the significance of the teacup and spoon in the hypnosis process, the camera suggests its ominous and vital presence with close-up shots of it cut in between shots of Chris and the mother’s conversation. One last example of an important close-up shot in the film is the shot of the arms of the chair that Chris is sitting in while trapped in the basement. The camera emphasizes the fuzzy white pieces coming out of the chair, suggesting that they may be important. Soon after, we find out they were actually crucial to Chris’ survival.

This film favors showing characters from below. These low angle shots help create the fearful atmosphere that the director wanted. When Chris expresses to Georgina how he feels uncomfortable around so many white people, Georgina reacts with tears yet creepy laughter. She repeatedly says “no” and shakes her head, but with a smile on her face. The camera is below her neck and only showing one side of her face, making the audience feel closer to her than they want to. The uncomfortable feeling this shot provokes is exactly what they director wants his viewers to feel, because that is how Chris feels. When Walter is shown at the conclusion of the movie with a gun, the audience sees him as intimidating for a moment. The audience suspects he might kill Chris because the angle suggests he is the one in the scene that holds all of the power.

Overall, Get Out is not as scary as it appears to be in the trailers. The music includes typical horror movie music, including loud unsuspecting crashes and overwhelming screeching strings, and this may evoke quick jolts of fear in viewers. However, the overall plot is not “scary,” but rather interesting and captivating. There are a few different levels of plot twists that keep your attention throughout the second half of the film. I would recommend this movie to anyone at a high school level and above.

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