Get Out has been a world wide phenomenon, raking in 174 million on a budget of 5, scoring 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and beloved by critics, this is an achievement in itself considering it is cast with non-headliners, made by a lesser known writer/director and is low budget, but when you add into the mix that its of the horror genre it is even more impressive.
Get out tells the story of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) a successful young African American New York photographer preparing to meet the upstate parents of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams of Girls fame). Its established from the beginning that he’s nervous about this, both because it is of course always nerve-wracking to meet the family of your significant other for the first time but also because its clear Rose has not yet informed her parents that he is black.
The discomfort continues when en route they hit a deer that bounds our in front of their car, Chris is clearly troubled and you later learn it’s a reminder for him of his mothers hit and run death when he was a child, an experience that has unreasonably burdened with him with terrible guilt.
Upon arriving at Rose’s parents homestead it becomes clear that they are the kind of over-compensating liberals who brag about their support of Obama but it sits uneasily with the oddly subdued African American help that hover on the periphery of their lives whom they insist are just ‘part of the family’.
That night they are joined by Rose’s even stranger brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones, who, after last years ‘war on everyone’ seems to be making a career of oddballs who make your skin crawl). Said brother challenges Chris to a wrestle, arguing that his ‘make up’ would make it an invigorating match. There is aggression here, but its muzzled and wrapped in a cloying acceptance that makes it hard to grasp. Tension builds up for Chris until during the night on a nicotine mission he encounters Rose’s therapist mother (the seductively creepy Catherine Keener) who promptly hypnotizes him and before he knows it that little cigarette craving is gone.. but is that all she did?
Things get even weirder the next day when at a party of neighbors Chris is paraded about and fawned over like a prize bull.
From this point on the action moves into the next gear, the mystery deepens and the clues as to what’s really going on in that house get creepier.
The finale is a violent revelation that for me was unfortunately a small let down as I guess I was hoping for a more grounded denouement and the lack of credibility in its solution was a slight stumble for me. Nevertheless the final scene was telling in how it played out and our reactions to who was in that car. No spoilers here but if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean.
There is comedy peppered throughout mostly supplied by Chris’s friend Rod (LilRel Howery who is a most welcome ingredient and in fact elevates every scene he’s in, he’s just so damn likable).
In his debut, Jordan Peele directs with eloquence and a clear vision, he focuses on Chris’ face and eyes, he wants us to be as close to him as we can be, feeling as he does, seeing things through his eyes. It’s a claustrophobic and effective viewpoint, one that works perfectly with this paranoid twilight zone-type of horror.
Acting across the board is exceptional with Daniel Kaluuya in particular giving a committed and enveloping performance.
I love socially conscious horror movies. The ones that have a little more on their agenda then just to scare you.
I’ll take my horror with a side of cultural relevance thank you!
Usually a high critic satisfaction score for a horror gives me pause – horrors are not meant to be polite cuddly things that appeal to a wider audience, they are by their very design supposed to challenge, horrify and perhaps even repel you. They are not supposed to be liked by everyone and when they are, I question their integrity – did they dull their edges? Did they dumb-down their bite? Luckily those fears do not apply here as the film-makers went into this wanting to sting you and they don’t let up with confronting images, storylines and characters. Indeed, some of the actions Chris takes verge into the questionable violence category, not for this type of film, but certainly for this type of character. By allowing him to do things that are maybe a step too far they have created a character that is totally human; frighteningly, unpredictably, savagely human.
With The Stepford Wives an obvious influence, this is still an original and uneasy film to watch. These people aren’t traditional men in white hoods racists, the police aren’t here to save you but may be just another road block to you getting out alive. It’s the quintessential fish out of water, and unlike other horrors where its traditionally been someone from a ‘nice neighborhood’ trapped in an urban nightmare, or a woman stuck in a testosterone filled hell, this time it’s the ‘nice neighborhood’ folk that are the villains, the fact that it sits so well on them tells us something about how our views on the world have changed over the years.
The best horror has always held a mirror up to society and challenged us to see the things we are really afraid of. This movie happily continues that tradition, whilst also managing to be a unique and much needed voice in the genre.
Kudos Mr Peele, kudos!