What a delight when a film with an intriguing premise, a fantastic advertising campaign and wide-spread critical acclaim arrives and it actually manages to live up to the hype. Such is the case with a Get Out, the socially conscious horror and debut from writer-director Jordan Peele (one half of comedy duo Key & Peele). From its first scene – part homage to Halloween and It Follows, partly a subversion of the white man walking through a dangerous predominately black suburb trope – to the darkly comic but violent catharsis of the final act, the movie is remarkably confident.
Rising star Daniel Kuluuya (perhaps best known as the sad protagonist at the heart of Black Mirror’s X-Factor satire episode) plays Chris, a black photographer with a white girlfriend named Rose (Girls’ Allison Williams). Throughout his life, he has had to deal with racism in many forms – an early scene sees him asked for his I.D. after a car-crash despite the fact he wasn’t driving (the prospect of police brutality haunts the interaction). Thus, he is anxious to visit Rose’s rich white family on their secluded lavish estate (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford as her parents, Caleb Landry Jones as her brother). These are the type of people that would say “my man” in the company of a black person as well as casually mentioning Obama was their favourite president every chance they could. However, upon arriving things appear even more sinister than the spectre of liberal ignorance and suppressed racial tension.
Get Out is a near-perfect horror-thriller – an incredible roller-coaster ride that moves from a dread-induced Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, to a hilarious satire, to a mind-twisting sensory experience and finally to an action-packed finale with such ease. Much of this success is down to Peele’s script. It really – through sharp dialogue and layered symbolism – conveys the awkwardness of underlying, hidden racism, a bigotry that has mutated from burning crosses to something more quiet and subtle in a post-Obama world. For instance, every white person during a party at Rose’s parents’ house mentions in conversion to Chris their connection with black culture. Yet, while Peele mines dread (and humour) from the sad everydayness of such actions, he also manages to be very successful on a genre-level. Like a horror masterpiece in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby (with which Get Out shares many similarities – the emphasis on eyes, an insidious older married couple, mysterious cults), the film just keeps building tension as every little detail pays off in thrilling and unexpected ways as the drama continues.
Peele also displays amazing prowess behind the camera. He appears to be very genre literate, not mistaking the “quiet, quiet … BANG!!!” sensibility of much of Blum House’s brand of horror (Paranormal Activity, Sinister 2) for genuine chills. There is very little jump-scares in Get Out and in the moments in which there is, they always pay-off – pushing the plot forward. Peele realises that people’s actions are creepier than special effects. He gets mines maximum dread from tears running down character’s eyes as they attempt to maintain a modicum of control and sanity. No better example is the moment where Atlanta’s Lakeith Stanfield appears as the only other man of colour at Rose’s parents gathering – breaking from his air of eloquent speech to warn Chris that all is not well.
There is almost nothing flawed about Get Out. Even when, in the third act, the film plays its hand – losing much of its intrigue – the terrific performances, particularly from Daniel Kaluuya (on a side-note I love how quietly intelligent his character is) and Peele’s skill at staging action (perhaps gained from his time aping movie aesthetics for sketch comedy) keep the viewer engaged. Even a potentially broad comedic character like Rod Williams (played by a hysterical Lil Rel Howery) – Chris’s friend who works for airport security and the one person who believes his fears – works because the gags involving him are consistently hilarious.
Yet, the most exciting aspect of Get Out is the fact that this is Jordan Peele’s first movie. I can’t wait to watch him grow as a filmmaker. On the strength of this, viewers are in for something special. To quote Rod, T.S. fuckin’ A. Stephen Porzio