Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: March 17
In horror, ‘the reveal’ is of paramount importance.
In horror, the only black character of note (traditionally male) is the first to go.
In horror, truly effective horror, humour has little to no place.
Get Out has fun playing with the above tropes, and a few more besides. A slight note of caution; Jordan Peele’s universally acclaimed debut isn’t quite the ‘instant classic’ it has already been concretely declared, but it’s the kind of intelligent genre picture that we desperately need more of.
A macabre, knowing mash-up of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Stepford Wives and Society, Get Out is strongest when not at its strangest. The straightforward plot – charming middle-class black guy in a relationship with likeable upper-middle-class white girl heads off for the weekend to meet her parents and things get increasingly tense and weird from there – and its emergent themes are lent additional and highly uncomfortable weight in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and a rise in fascist rhetoric.
Indeed, an opening scene depicting the casual abduction of a young black man on a suburban street sets an uneasy tone that Peele ratchets up throughout, right down to a conclusion that preys on the long-established expectations of the audience. At the first time of asking, the director proves himself a master craftsman where anxiety and dread are concerned – one elongated sequence in particular uses sound design and repetition to such an effective degree that it’s almost genuinely unbearable – and his script is so economical that it ultimately registers as quite deceptive.
Get Out stays in the brain long after the credits not just because of the relevant questions it raises but because there’s real nuance here. It’s the rare occasion where a second viewing isn’t just encouraged, but downright essential. At times, the misdirection is incredible. You might figure out where it’s all going, but as with the rather overlooked Shutter Island, the journey is the destination.
The pristine world that our protagonist Chris – Daniel Kaluuya, whose previous with a typically overwritten episode of Black Mirror serves him well as he brilliantly navigates this twilight zone – enters into is immediately off, instantly wrong, but the avarice and vanity that bubbles beneath the surface requires grim, surreal context to fully appreciate. The power of Get Out lies in the conversations and arguments you’ll have afterwards, from surface observations to racial politics to hiding meanings to running away with the more outlandish elements housed within the material.
Oh, and it’s funny. One could argue that a secondary plot that checks in with Chris’ supportive best friend (performed with relish by comedian Lil Rel Howery) is tonally at odds with the main crux of the story and even somewhat superfluous, but Peele recognises the viewer’s need for some levity every now and again. What’s more, this strand once more allows him to mess with convention as Howery takes on the role of wise audience surrogate only to have his considered fears dismissed and shouted down. A gut feeling of helplessness can make for greater terror than any movie monster, after all.
In horror, truly effective horror, there should be no escape, even if an exit materialises. Get Out gets that, and it trusts you to get it, too.