What is the difference-maker between a forgettable film and a film that is rewatchable and recommendable for more people?
The same three features that make pro wrestling ultrapopular and megaprofitable. Yes, really! I call them the 3 Count!
Using pro wrestling terminology, I’ll review “Get Out” for its 3 Count, and other pro wrestling concepts, to figure out how this small-budget horror movie became a financial and cultural phenomenon.
“Get Out” was highly praised by critics and audiences alike. It’s always an attention-getter when R rated horror movies get over with critics (even though they exaggerate their greatness sometimes). And, wow, was “Get Out” an overwhelming success! Made for only $5 million dollars, it grossed over $176 million worldwide! When a movie draws a house that large, it has a whole lot more to offer viewers than just jump scares.
But what is it about the movie that spurred this overwhelming pop from the movie-loving universe?
It’s the 3 Count! So, let’s talk about “Get Out” and how it’s crystal clear pro-wrestling storytelling helped it become a movie masterpiece. And SPOILER ALERT!
First, let’s look at the trailer’s Butts in Seats Gimmick, the marketing hook that’s supposed to make people say, “I’ve got to see that!”
The Butts in Seats Gimmick
The main gimmick is tension! Racial tension in an already tense situation (meeting a girlfriend’s family in their territory) becomes even more intense when we see blades, guns, fire, violence and screaming. Then we see it’s the directorial debut of comedy skit veteran Jordan Peele! Fans of horror, of Jordan Peele, of movies about social issues, are all invited to watch this movie, expanding its appeal to put more “Butts in Seats.”
Now, let’s look at the movie’s 3 Count.
The 3 Count
1. Babyfaces vs Heels
Babyfaces vs heels (or good guys vs bad guys) is one of the most basic ingredients for emotional investment in any story. Does “Get Out” have babyfaces vs heels?
Chris Washington is the movie’s endangered babyface.
Chris is a normal dude with a girlfriend, a dog, a best friend, and a talent for photography. He has no skills we can expect him to use to defend himself when the trouble starts. In other words, he’s an underdog.
One of Chris’ important babyface wrestler characteristics is he begins the story with a wound. When a babyface wrestler starts a match with a wounded, taped-up body part, you can count on the heel to get heat on that weakness during the match. It helps them gain control over the babyface and creates sympathy for the babyface with the viewer. Chris’ wound is the guilt he feels over the death of his mother. The heels attack Chris’ wound, his mental vulnerability, through hypnosis, and Chris becomes powerless to fight back.
The other babyface is Rod Williams, Chris’ best friend.
Chris’ best friend Rod has likeable qualities (humor, intelligence), and he drove to the heels’ house to rescue Chris while having no idea what danger he would encounter once he got there! That’s why some say Rod is the “real hero” of the movie.
Now, let’s take a look at the heels.
I mean, damn, these heels get heat! The Armitages capture and hypnotize black people, then repackage them into old, white people who want younger, stronger bodies. That’s insane and evil! Each member of the Armitage family has a special role and skill, like wrestlers in a faction.
Chris’ kayfabing girlfriend, the emotional bait, and the heel who babyfaced Chris to put him in danger.
The hypnotist who uses her signature weapon (teacup and spoon) to hypnotize her victim. Once hypnotized, she sends their consciousness to the Sunken Place, a spot in their mind where they can see and hear what happens around them but can’t control their body. Missy is associated with her tea cup and spoon like Paul Bearer and his urn, Jim Cornette and his tennis racket, and Abdullah the Butcher and his bloody fork.
The surgeon. After Rose brings the victim in, and Missy hypnotizes them, Dean blades them and performs the Coagula Procedure. But what is the Coagula Procedure? We never find out!
All we learn is Dean has perfected it, it’s scientific, and it can incapacitate a guy like *snap of the fingers* that. It sounds like the mysterious wrestling hold AWA wrestler Steve Regal “perfected” to “perfection” that has Mean Gene so concerned.
The enforcer of the faction. The alternative to Roses’ method, Jeremy strong-arms dudes in the street and takes them to his family. He’s creepy and intense.
So, we have two opposing sides with a personal conflict between them, the same primary struggle at the heart of pro wrestling.
So far, we’re 1 for 3 of the 3 Count.
Now, let’s look for Top Talent in “Get Out.” Top Talent wrestlers (and movie characters) stand out from everyone else for their charisma, quotability, distinctive appearance, fun-to-imitate qualities, and huge drawing power at the box office. So, does “Get Out” have any Top Talent?
2. Top Talent
Rod Williams: Thank God for Rod! He’s a charismatic, quote-generating, glasses-and-TSA-outfit wearing Top Talent character with the last, great line of the movie. He’s funny, and a low-key “Scream”-style deconstructionist of the horror movie Chris is living in. Personally, I think a t-shirt with “Don’t go to a white girl parents’ house” could be a top seller.
There’s also the straw-hat wearing, nose-bleeding, title-of-the-movie-catchphrase-screaming Logan, who’s over enough to get a pop when he appeared at the 90th annual Academy Awards, the WrestleMania of Hollywood.
We’re 2 for 2 with the 3 Count.
Now, let’s look at how well the storytelling technique of pro wrestling, called Ring Psychology, can be applied to “Get Out.”
3. Ring Psychology
Ring Psychology is the form of storytelling wrestlers use to create the emotional peaks and valleys in their matches while they fight for the story’s momentum. How is the Ring Psychology for “Get Out”?
Act 1: Entrances
First, we watch a dark match that literally happens in the dark of night. A heel working under a hood puts a sleeper hold on a black dude who was minding his own business in an otherwise empty suburban street. The heel puts the dude into the trunk of a car and powders. Now, we start the main event.
The ring: The Armitages’ lake-side house in an upper-class neighborhood.
Then the babyface tag team enters: Chris and Rose.
Chris and Rose are going to visit Rose’s family for the weekend. Chris is concerned Rose didn’t tell her family Chris is black, but she says…
On the way to the house, Chris and Rose hit a deer. They call 911, which leads to…
Our first heel entrance: a white cop.
The cop shows up and tries to get heat on Chris with some harassment, but Rose makes the save and the cop powders. What a great partner Rose is! They’re going to be fine in this match as long as they fight it together!
Roses’ family enters next.
Mother Missy, father Dean, and brother Jeremy. We also meet the Armitage family’s groundskeeper Walter and housekeeper Georgina, who are both black. Dean and Jeremy say some racially clumsy things to Chris, but the Armitages don’t seem like heels.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS A TAG TEAM IRONMAN MATCH! THE MATCH ENDS WHEN CHRIS AND ROSE SURVIVE THE WEEKEND-LONG TIME LIMIT. THIS MATCH IS FOR THE LONGEVITY OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP!
Act 2: Ring the Bell!
The Butts in Seats Gimmick promised tension and the movie kept the promise! There are long sets of heat and few hopespots throughout the film.
Some of the moments that stand out for the discomfort they make us feel include:
Chris sees Walter running around outside like the freaking Ultimate Warrior!
And there’s the scene that gives the movie its title.
Chris’s phone has the benefit of flash photography, so when he clicks a pic of Logan at the Armitage’s garden party, he unwittingly helps Logan kick-out of the trance he’s under. Suddenly, Logan lunges at Chris and tells him to “Get out!” Logan screams as Jeremy takes him away.
Chris and Rose decide to leave early because Chris is uncomfortable. They’re going to get out together! They’re a great team! That’s all that matters!
Cutoff and Get Heat
Everything goes wrong. Rod says “Logan” is a guy he knows named Andre who disappeared. Then, Chris finds a shoe box filled with pics of Rose’s ex’s, all of them black, including Walter and Georgina. Rose is a heel and Chris needs to get out! He tries to no-sell to Rose and her family so he can just leave. But he doesn’t make it out of the house! Rose reveals she’s part of the heels’ faction, and she has the car keys! His only ally, who he loved, turned on him! Swerve!
Missy hits Chris with the Sunken Place, and the Armitages drag his body to somewhere in the house.
Act 3: The Go-Home
For the first half of the Go-Home, things look hopeless. Rod can’t get the cops to tag in and help Chris. And Chris is tied to a chair in the Armitages’ house. All of this is a set-up to the high-energy Fire-up and Comeback heading into The Finish!
Fire-up and Comeback
Chris escapes from the chair and hardways Jeremy with a bocce ball before stomping him to death, stabs Dean in the throat (the David-Arquette-special) with deer antlers, and stabs Missy in the eye, all as he leaves the burning house. Now, that’s what I call a proper fire-up!
More chaos ensues as Chris crashes Jeremy’s car in the street outside the Armitage house, Georgina dies, Rose is shooting a rifle, and Walter tackles Chris in the road. Even Chris’ Comeback has cutoffs and hopespots, keeping the tension high!
Chris still has the benefit of flash photography, and hits Walter with it. Walter turns babyface (or turns into whoever he used to be) and shoots Rose in the breadbasket, then shoots himself. Everyone in the Armitage faction is dead! Well, except for Rose…
Chris, channeling the audiences’ emotions, begins to use the dreaded heel move called a “blatant choke.” At this point, we want Chris to kill her like this! She’s a monster heel and she’s sick and… and… she’s smiling?! Like when Raven had the Crippler Crossface slapped on him at Souled Out 1998! It’s creepy!
Chris lets her go. Just then, red and blue lights flash from an approaching cop car. NOW THE COPS DO A RUN-IN?! NOW?!
Turns out it’s Rod in a TSA car, and he takes Chris away as Rose dies in the street.
You know what? Although his relationship ended, Chris’ goal from the beginning was to just survive the weekend at his girlfriend’s parents’ house. So… hooray! He won!
Great Ring Psychology! The heels have the momentum for most of the story, which keeps the tension going. The babyface was always in peril, and the heels had all the advantages until the comeback when the tension released spectacularly. We go from a quiet, blindside attack at night to a house-burning, car-crashing, rifle-firing finish. Considering all of the twisting plot points to set up and payoff, including all of the carefully orchestrated heel turns, everything made sense once it was all over. The Ring Psycholgy is tight!
That’s 3 for 3 of the 3 Count! Let’s finish off this review.
The Blow Off
What a great movie with a great use of the 3 Count! Empathetic, outmatched babyfaces, and dastardly, dangerous heels! Memorable, easily identifiable Top Talent characters! Awesome storytelling with Ring Psychology that creates great pacing, logic, and escalating intensity! All the qualities of a Main Eventer.
But I’m categorizing “Get Out” as a Hall of Famer! It’s one of the most resonant movies in the last several years and has already created a huge legacy since its release in 2017. What resulted quickly after its release were tons of memes, several award nominations, an Oscar win for Best Screenplay, major career pushes for Peele and some of the newer actors, and a reinvigorated discussion on race.
I also want to acknowledge another quality that makes the movie great. When a film has a character, or a scene, or something else that sticks with them long after they watch the film the first time, that’s the Most Over Gimmick of the Movie. “Get Out” has several candidates for the Most Over Gimmick. Look at all the movie’s great scenes and dialogue. It’s amazing! But one scene stands out for making an impact on pop culture like Ace Romero’s Pounce impacts Anthony Gaines.
The Most Over Gimmick in “Get Out” is the Sunken Place. (It’s not just where Taz and Bam Bam ended up at Living Dangerously 1998.)
The Sunken Place: the unique name of the territory within a person’s mind where their consciousness is trapped while their body is being used by others. It’s like the ultimate submission hold. You slap it on someone, and they stay in it even when you’re not around. The Sunken Place has been used to explain people’s behavior in real life, which should tell you how much it resonates with viewers. But why is it so over? There’s a lot of pro wrestling concepts associated with the scene.
- Catchphrase: “Now, you’re in the Sunken Place.” Missy’s t-shirt ready catchphrase is associated with introducing the concept.
- Gimmicky name: The Sunken Place is as unique a name as the “Stone Cold Stunner,” meaning it belongs to “Get Out.”
- Selling: Babyfaces create empathy when they sell the suffering they’re going through. The iconic shot of Chris’ face as he sells his emotional turmoil makes The Sunken Place a devastating move.
In short, this little horror movie over achieved and became one of the most important movies of this generation. Of course, it’s a Hall of Famer.
P.S. Although they don’t often use hypnosis in wrestling matches, when they do, it’s the most illegal thing you’ve seen in the history of wrestling!