Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Jordan Peele makes his big screen debut as director for new Psychological horror Get Out.
Yeh you heard that right, one half of the comedy sketch duo Key & Peele. The guys responsible for the hilarious A-Aron sketch plastered all over Comedy Central.
This left many – including myself – feeling slightly reserved and sceptical about whether Peele could deliver a compelling story and experience in a genre so alien from his own.
However, after the 104 minute running time, I felt foolish for having preempted cynicism instead of just going in completely open-minded. I was expecting a typical horror flick that would likely fall into the category of being largely okay, but forgettable, like a number of tick box, banal horrors in recent years.
Instead, to my delectation, Peele had created an intriguing and thought provoking experience that will stand the test of time in the genre. I’d even go as far to say it is the most unique and innovative horror since It Follows.
Peele tackles the delicate and tricky theme of race in Get Out, making nods to servitude and exploitation. The risks however, well and truly pay off in creating a meaningful and interesting narrative.
I would best describe Get Out as a great exercise in sustained tension and menace rooted in social discomfort.
Rose (Allison Williams) is a young, white girl from a middle class family. She’s dating Chris; (Daniel Kaluuya) a young, black man from humble beginnings.
After 5 months their relationship reaches the inevitable stage where Rose wants an apprehensive Chris to meet her parents.”Do they know i’m black?” were the words uttered by Chris, almost embarrassed to get the words out. Rose laughs off his concerns and reassures him that it wont be an issue: “they’re not racist. My dad would have voted for Obama a third time if it would’ve been possible.”
After heading up into the country, Chris’s apprehension is relieved – all be-it briefly – following a warm reception from the Armitage family. He’s enthusiastically greeted by Rose’s parents; Dean Armitage, (Bradley Whitford) a highly esteemed neuro-surgeon and Missy Armitage, (Catherine Keener) an accomplished hypnotherapist. They invite Chris into their tastefully furnished abode and begin getting to know him.
“So… how long has this been going on? this… thaang.”
Yes, that is an actual quote.
Things start getting awkward from there. We start to gather that the Armitage household are essentially the opposite of racists. They’re liberals and don’t they preach it. After general niceties and a few glasses of wine, they slowly begin introducing race – in a positive light – into almost every conversation, to the point where it becomes pretty painstaking for the audience and Chris, obviously.
Mr Armitage shows Chris a framed picture of his dad alongside Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics, where the gold-medallist’s win “put Hitler in his place.” Chris politely smiles and nods.
Chris is also put on edge by the presence of the black gardener and housekeeper who stroll around the residence in a zombie like, emotionless state, speaking in an overly-formal and seemingly contrived manner.
Chris expresses his hang-ups and generally unwinds whilst on the phone to his black friend from home (comedian Lil Rel Howery) a TSA officer who does little to reassure him, with his pessimistic and paranoid notions, which Chris takes with a pinch of salt.
“Is that really this weekend?”
Chris and Rose then find out that their visit coincides with a large gathering the Armitage’s host annually. The guests?.. almost carbon copies of the Armitages themselves. All middle age white liberals, who seem overly enthusiastic to meet Chris; who’s friendly demeanour begins to start flaking slightly. He’s again bombarded with awkward conversations and positive reinforcement towards black people in society: “Tiger Woods, one of the best.”
Chris quite frankly needs a break and decides to do some photography – his passion – around the manor. He notices one black male of similar age who’s married to a senior white woman at the party: “Good to see another brother around here.” He quickly notices again that something is amiss as the man responds similarly to the gardener and maid, but more so. He looks familiar.
Up to this stage we’ve had the occasional jump-scare and foreshadowing, but the general eeriness and tension begins to spill over, as Peele descends into full scale horror mode. What begins happening next is somewhat far-fetched, but Peele has laid all the necessary ground-work for it to get there. The natural dialogue, seminal performances and pace make it seamless and immersive.
It very quickly starts to feel like a Blumhouse production as Chis finds himself in a predicament where he quite simply has to ‘Get Out’ or concede and face the hidden agenda. Truly terrifying by the way.
The final section can be looked at as cathartic justice for all the seemingly disposable black characters on the big screen over the years, as you find yourself inwardly cheering acts of violence, as Chris attempts to escape the manor.
The reaction to this film, can only be positive. You’d have to be a real stick in the mud to not concur. It is simultaneously a great psychological horror/thriller and comedy whilst commenting upon serious issues. The acting, script, score and deliberate use of editing are all great.
You can tell that underlying, Peele really intends to leave a lasting mark and wants people to think. The way in which this film subversively comments on white liberalism and challenges the usual perspective, by making Chris the main protagonist is somewhat of a masterstroke. It’s eye-opening and is essentially exposing a reality that people aren’t willing to talk about very often.
I personally hope that Jordan Peele continues writing for the genre. Seminal horror films are too few and far between and Get Out is a modern genre classic.