Get Out, 2017.
Written and Directed by Jordan Peele.
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, LilRel Howery, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, Lakeith Stanfield, and Catherine Keener
A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate.
So you want something subversive? How about a horror movie where the black guy doesn’t die first, or possibly even not at all? Wouldn’t that be a groundbreaking concept? The film in question could also deal with race relations, stereotypes among both whites and blacks, creep us out, and make us laugh hysterically. Such is the case with writer/director Jordan Peele’s (one half of the comedic duo Key and Peele, and star of last year’s kitty gangster kidnapping laugh riot Keanu) debut feature, Get Out. It’s a mind-bending film featuring everything from hypnosis to sex slave conspiracy theories.
Anyway, circling back to my opening point, before writing this review I rattled my brain thinking about the current state of Hollywood regarding diversity, but even more fittingly couldn’t really think of a majorly popular scary film that had cast an African-American in the lead role. Now, I’m sure one has to exist, but movies that immediately come to mind are Halloween, The Thing, and other straight up masterpieces that all feature white stars front and center. As a result, what leaps out is that in an age where modern movies are constantly under criticism for not being unique or original, the quickest solution to make something refreshing was literally something as simple as ‘make a mystery thriller/horror starring someone of color’. Who would have thunk it!?
Now, that’s not to say a scary film starring an African-American (in this case it’s Daniel Kaluuya who gave a serviceable performance in a minor role for 2015’s Sicario) is automatically guaranteed to be quality, but it is here under the acute writing and direction of Jordan Peele. Get Out simply works on so many levels and reveals its razor-sharp stabs at social commentary early on; Rose’s father, who we’re told from the beginning is totally not racist, gives a speech expressing joy that the couple had accidentally run over and killed a deer on their way to meet the parents, because they are overpopulated and for other reasons. Also credit the unsettling performance of Bradley Whitford, but it’s abundantly clear that in this exchange he is heinously using deer as a vile metaphor for black people. It’s an awkward, nasty spiel that sets the vibe for racial undertones. Naturally, it doesn’t stop there, as the workers on the property are all black and under hypnosis, essentially presenting itself as a new, equally hideous form of slavery.
Where the plot ends up is certainly surprising and twisty (save for one of the major reveals that feels like it was a bit too hinted at in advance), ramping up intensity for a second half that explodes into all-out hilarity among some deeply disturbing situations. It’s wonderful how Jordan Peele juggles both horror and comedy without ever once sacrificing one for the other, or the act of telling a captivating and frightening tale of substance. Peele’s script also finds ways to subvert general horror tropes, leaving a lot of unexpectedness as the movie steamrolls towards its climax.
Quickly elaborating on the humor, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) keeps in contact with a TSA agent friend played by LilRel Howery, who deserves praise for providing seriously major laughs. Get Out is never afraid to pull back from itself and seemingly mock how wacky its narrative is, and his character hits a home-run delivering lines that will have audiences howling. His character is like the knife cutting tension in bizarre happenings for perfectly timed comedic relief. With that said, all of the performances from the supporting actors are great, all inhabiting a voice tone of general stereotypical hick creepiness. The family is actually kind of reminiscent to a young Col. Sanders that went through an extremely hateful racist phase.
The only real flaw with Get Out is that the first half is a little bit slow moving, and also has Chris suffering from Idiot Horror Protagonist Syndrome. The same gripe exists in the recently released A Cure for Wellness, where it is obvious to everyone on the planet that something isn’t right with both the people and location surrounding the main character, who is of course oblivious. Get Out does somewhat compensate for this however, as Chris eventually becomes a brutal ass-kicking machine that takes no prisoners; it’s like the character is a manifestation of the vengeance fueled frustrations of every black character that has ever died first in a scary movie, letting out all that rage on these modern-day slave owners. The levels of violence during the film’s final act were certainly a pleasant surprise.
Still, the first 45 minutes or so are filled with weird attempts at horror that occasionally miss, falling into a realm of unintentional hilarity. However, there is a jump jump scare of a black woman walking around the house in the background, which is actually one of the most genius moments of the movie. Black people; so scary they need LOUD NOISES to accompany their presence. As mentioned, Get Out‘s greatest weapon is its relevant social commentary, so thankfully the film is always up to something with it in mind.
Minor flaws aside, it’s safe to say that Jordan Peele’s directorial debut will most likely stand among the cream of the crop as far as 2017 horror films go. It’s wildly ambitious, poignant, terrifying, full of laughs, a refreshing take on the genre with subversive tendencies, racially charged, and damn entertaining.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★