The year's smartest, most critically acclaimed horror movie has finally arrived.
May 04, 2017
When a movie starts with a character walking nervously along a dark street, we all know what's going to happen next. Decades of horror films have taught us that nothing good can occur here. And, in Get Out, the situation plays out exactly as we've been conditioned to expect. The scared person is abducted by a masked attacker and dragged into a car. Crucially though, the victim isn't an attractive young woman, but rather a black man (Lakeith Stanfield) getting snatched up in the kind of picket-fenced suburbia most white folks could stroll through without fear.
If you've ever seen his work with Keegan-Michael Key across the five seasons of their sketch comedy show Key and Peele, writer-director Jordan Peele's fondness for dissecting matters of race won't come as much of a surprise. While his first stint as a filmmaker doesn't feature white zombies refusing to eat people of colour, the underlying idea that African Americans are treated differently still sticks. Here, as in his comedy, he presents a scenario that quickly goes from amusing to uncomfortable to downright unnerving.
Following Get Out's sinister opening scene, the film's focus switches to Brooklyn photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who's about to head to his girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) family home in the country. He's meeting her parents for the first time, and he's understandably anxious. When he asks "do they know I'm black?", she assures him that it doesn't matter because her dad would've voted for Obama a third time if he could've. Chris has clearly heard similar sentiments before, and knows it's going to be awkward anyway. "I don't wanna get chased off the lawn with a shotgun," he jokes.
After they arrive, Rose's father (Bradley Whitford) keeps dropping "my man" into daggy attempts at conversation. Her mother (Catherine Keener) is polite to Chris, but noticeably stern with their black servants (Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson). Then there's Rose's younger brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) who makes uncomfortable comments about Chris' physique. To say that things don't feel quite right is a horror movie understatement right up there with Rosemary finding her new neighbours a bit odd in Rosemary's Baby. But again, Chris has seen this type of behaviour before. He's not thrilled, but he's not astonished either.
Like all sinister storylines, the events that unfold are best discovered with as little prior knowledge as possible. It's not hard to pick up on the cleverly deployed horror tropes as they appear: the isolated location, hitting a deer on the way there, and the vocal warnings from Chris' pal Rod (LilRel Howery) back home. Likewise, you won't be able to miss the way that race keeps seeping into every conversation, shaping the way the movie unfolds. Peele's mastery of his spook-inducing genre is evident from the outset, but it's how he uses his classic setup to subvert the expected cliches and unleash a barrage of scathing social commentary that proves downright genius.
What's so great about Get Out is how it defies easy categorisation. It's smart and oh-so-timely in the way that it highlights what it's like to be black in "post-racial" America. It's also genuinely unsettling and tense in an edge-of-your-seat manner, and never stops making viewers question what it is they're seeing. Last but not least, it's frequently hilarious, which given the director's background shouldn't come as a surprise. Add all of that together, and you're gifted one of the most assured, astute, entertaining and intelligent horror movies to creep out cinemas in years.