Part of what makes Get Out work so well as a “social thriller” is that, for all of its keen horror movie references and devices, it still feels so real. The subtle racism Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) endures when meeting his white girlfriend’s family and their friends for the first time, the experimentation performed upon the bodies of black people—these moments were ripped directly from real-life experiences and headlines from the past. (Even the twist, in which the brains of the white characters are transplanted into the bodies of black characters doesn’t seem so far off from where science is currently heading.) The one part that feels a bit less plausible—but is still both cathartic and subversive—is the ending, in which Chris’ best friend (and proud Transportation Security Administration security guard) Rod arrives at the scene just in time to scoop him up and away from all of the racist craziness Rose Armitage and her family have inflicted upon him. In real life, the flashing blue and red lights would have likely been that of the local police, and Chris—crouched over a dying white woman and with an unmistakable trail of dead bodies from the rest of her wealthy family to boot—would’ve either been a goner, or at the very least, a lifer, without question.
Obviously, writer-director Jordan Peele was aware of this and shot an alternate ending to express as much. Now that the film is available on DVD and to stream, that finale has found its way online, and it’s just as bleak as you’d imagine. Notably, Chris goes so far as to strangle Rose to death, unlike in the final version, in which he decides against it in the heat of the moment. (That small detail has made for heated debate among viewers, many of whom understandably saw it as a cop-out meant to pacify white audiences who couldn’t handle seeing such deliberate, if justified, murderous revenge enacted by a black man upon a white woman.) Peele stops short of the likely scenario of Chris being shot and killed by the police, though when they do arrive instead of Rod, he is promptly arrested. Cut to Rod visiting his defeated friend in prison. Chris tells him that there’s no use in trying to explain to everyone what really happened. The only good to come out of all of this: “I stopped them,” he says of the Armitage family’s horrible business. “I stopped them.”
Peele has teased this ending since the film’s release, and so the contents of it are unsurprising. Nevertheless, seeing it in action hardly numbs its depressing impact and also confirms—to this viewer, at least—that he went with the better ending for the final cut. There are plenty of examples of black people being wrongfully murdered and imprisoned in the daily news. With Get Out, Peele made the daring, sly choice to buck all cinematic convention and finally give a black protagonist in a horror movie the chance to live another day.