Director: Jordan Peele
Screenplay: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Horror movies in the mainstream circuit are becoming more and more unusually rare in their ingenuity and understanding of the foundations of the genre. Many of the most interesting horror films of the past decade have either found themselves overlooked or misunderstood by general multiplex audiences, but what Get Out appears to have tapped into is something not only poignant and globally understood, but that fully understands the fundamentals of its edifice.
Horror films primarily exist to pray on the fears that lay dormant in our minds like primal instincts of reaction; that fear that you might not be alone, that someone is following you, that someone is lying to you, and then exploiting said anxieties with a firm context of horrifying and satisfying validation. The premise of Get Out is the remarkably contemporary conceit focusing on the tensions of race in a modern era of opposing tolerance and prejudice. It’s a simple enough idea to work on a level of immediate stimulation and emotional response, but the real genius of the film lies in what its actually trying to draw attention to in the current western climate.
What writer/director Jordan Peele has accomplished here in his astonishing debut not only plays up to some of his best work on Key & Peele, but puts a mirror up to a majority of its audience as an incredibly defiant act of reflection. This being the idea that sometimes the real enemies of racial equality aren’t the obvious bigots or easy media targets, but progressively minded middle class liberal white people who simply can’t stop bringing up the issue of race every time a black person is in the room. This tension that swells under the film is immediately apparent and discomforting, as the extensive vocal efforts to make sure new boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) knows that the colour of his skin isn’t a big deal to girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) upper middle-class parents only makes the strain so much worse.
The social anxiety and distress of seeing white liberals desperately attempt to tiptoe around the conversation, whilst also drawing as much attention to their non-culpability of racial oppression or segregation as possible, is going to resonate for a majority of black audience members. This is a reality that will be all too close to home for many, but it works by also drawing the attention of otherwise forward-thinking white people in the audience as to just how scary it can sometimes be when you’re the only black person in the room.
On top of this incredibly relevant and sharp satire, that is itself treated with an air of comedy as to alleviate the total need to despair at existing horrors, Get Out is just an absolute blast to watch. Jordan Peele’s direction and visual range is jaw-dropping, drawing inspiration from the sinister commentary of The Stepford Wives and the silent apprehension of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, it’s an incredible show of prospective talent. The crispness of its image, the clarity of its aesthetic colours and retrofitted sense of place all work with a fantastic pace and structure to ramp up the tension as much as possible. His invention with certain images and frames is loud and proud, highly palatable, yet still somehow holds the distinction as a prominent piece of modern black cinema in its own right.
The performances across the board are never off point. Daniel Kaluuya is undoubtedly the breakout here with a faultless devotion to his role and the emotional complexities of what he is being asked to achieve. Allison Williams is great as the supportive and thoughtful girlfriend, especially as her character evolves in the film’s final movement, and Lil Rel Howery steals every scene he’s in as his home sitting buddy and the films comic relief. But the secret weapons are Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as upstanding parents Dean and Missy Armitage, who are so insidiously underplayed yet so fantastically charismatic that it’s hard not to be pulled into their alluring spell, which is so great at keeping you guessing until the film is finally ready to reveal itself.
The third act of Get Out steps into a more conventional field of play as the blood begins to flow, but it feels like the earned reward for sticking out the unbearable tensions of the first two, and lets rip in a crowd-pleasing spectacle of cathartic retribution as the truly twisted revelation fully manifests itself.
Get Out is going to be recognised as one of the most important horror pictures of the decade – and rightfully so. This is as subversively sharp as satire can get; tight, thrilling, unnerving and stimulating to discuss while never offering an easy conclusion to its issues, and from an audience perspective it’s a fantastic display to witness as it piles on the surprises well into the final reel.