Jordan Peele’s directorial debt Get Out might be the most strangely relatable horror film I’ve ever watched. At a time where racial prejudice is all too out in the open, it’s the smaller aggressions, from the less obvious sources (basically, not the right wing) that are often forgotten about – the ones that black people actually experience on a day to day basis. The unconscious patronising, the uncomfortable cautiousness and creation of distance between you and them are pretty much a staple of being a person of colour in a middle class area.
Get Out leaves no stone unturned, finding plenty of horror in the complacency of the liberal, American white “I’m not a racist, I voted for Obama” middle classes. The peaceful suburbs that often get invaded by the outsider slasher (think Halloween or Scream), becomes the very threat itself – as Daniel Kaluuya’s protagonist finds that no matter what his hosts say, he’s really not welcome.
To those familiar with Peele and his work with Keegan Michael Key on Key and Peele and then Keanu, the comedy should come as no surprise – Get Out often plays like an extended, more subtle take on one of their sketches. While it’s not even the main aim, the film is often funnier in the moments between the discomforting racial prejudice (and sometimes during) than most US comedies, but never really at the expense of tension. There are some truly bone-chilling moments in Get Out, and Peele makes a near perfect balance of the threat from social difference with the more conventional threats that comes with the horror genre.
As his first solo writing/directing venture, Get Out’s polish and confidence really surprises. The visuals are extremely creative, taking cues from the likes of Under the Skin (a pretty great inspiration when it comes to psychological horror about prejudice), and rather disturbingly matching the American suburbs with something along the lines of 12 Years a Slave.
In his first leading role, Daniel Kaluuya (of Sicario and Black Mirror fame) is pitch perfect as Chris – unassuming, artistic and often dodges prejudice rather than confront it head-on. He’s determined for things to just be fine, often giving his girlfriend (a fantastic Allison Williams) Rose’s parents the benefit of the doubt, even when they make some pretty bone-headed small talk. He’s clearly exhausted by both the overt and subtle racism that he experiences day in and day out, but tries to stay cool anyway.
The tension that results from Kaluuya’s character being surrounded by a mass of seemingly clueless white geriatrics makes the final act of the film seem far less inspired by comparison – the film’s greatest moments lie in the interaction between Chris, his white hosts, and their house servants (all black, and very weird). There is a funny subplot featuring Chris’ TSA friend Rod (LilRel Howery) that threatens to meander too far from the main narrative, but the character proves to be a great, loud comic foil for the more restrained Chris – Rod being the one that notices that something is very wrong about as quickly as the audience.
Get Out is a fantastic blend of hilarious racial satire and tense horror that illustrates that prejudice comes in forms less obvious. Peele subverts the familiar horror setting of the suburbs, and twists it into something far more disturbing – a nightmare world that resonates very strongly with our own. Despite the third act eventually giving way to ground more well trodden by the films of Blumhouse productions, Get Out is cutting, terrifying and whipsmart from beginning to end, and the most fun you will have in the cinema all year.
Dir: Jordan Peele
Scr: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield and Catherine Keener
Prod: Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele
DOP: Toby Oliver
Run time: 103 minutes
Get Out is out in cinemas now.