Starring: Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario), Allison Williams (Girls), Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods), Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class)
Writer/Director: Jordan Peele (Keanu)
Runtime: 1 hour 43 minutes
Release Date: 24 February (US), 17 March (UK)
Like with all genre pictures, horror movies are at their best when they are about something. When one uses its tricks and scares to say something about the world whilst simultaneously creeping you out, you know you are watching something with far greater intentions than making a quick buck. Get Out is certainly one of those films, using the style and tropes of horror films to make a fresh and timely comment on modern subconscious racism.
Get Out clearly wears its references on its sleeve, taking cues from The Stepford Wives and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner amongst others, but they never feel like a direct lift. Instead, the film uses similar concepts and iconography to tell a story all its own that reflects our present rather than the sources’ past. It follows a typical horror movie structure but it doesn’t try to constantly shock you as most modern flicks would. Instead, the tension is gradually but painfully eked out of you through a growing sense of discomfort through everyday racial awkwardness. It’s a situation many of us can relate to no matter which side of the embarrassment you usually fall on, and through the constant tightening of this situation the true horror is revealed. This slow build before an inevitable bloody release reminded me a lot of the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, whilst the clever planting of hints throughout the story clearly owes a lot to the works of Edgar Wright. The third act is perhaps a little abrupt and leaves you wanting more, but that seems to be its intention. By denying you a definitive conclusion, it leaves that air of unease on you even as you’re leaving the theatre.
Acting in horror movies can often been seen as an afterthought, but in Get Out they are almost exclusively what drives the terror. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris is a star-making turn playing the fish-out-of-water in a very intimidating ocean. He does a great job of rationalising and staying calm in such a potentially scary situation, making him a believable character whilst also making a comment on typical horror movie protagonists; he’s not totally oblivious to his predicament. Allison Williams as girlfriend Rose is also excellent, caught between supporting Chris and rationalising the inappropriate behaviour of her parents. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are fantastic as said parents, especially Whitford in the way he so calmly and confidently says insensitive things or appropriates Ebonics. Caleb Landry Jones feels a little needless as Rose’s brother Jeremy, crossing the line a little to far into traditional racism rather than everyone else’s subdued approach, but it’s not enough to sour the experience. There’s some great supporting work also from the likes of Keith Stanfield and Stephen Root, but the real show-stealer is LilRel Howery as Chris’ best friend Rod. He provides some much needed comic relief, essentially acting as the voice of the audience, whilst also demonstrating an intelligence rarely seen by horror movie characters; he’s like Randy from Scream, but without having to be annoyingly meta.
Many were confused to see Jordan Peele put his comedic career aside to make a horror movie as his directorial debut, but not only does his love for the genre shine through but his comedy chops prove easily translatable. Like a great joke, a great scare requires strong set-up, effective timing and a big payoff, and Peele clearly understands both. The atmosphere of unease is created masterfully, making a seemingly pleasant country home as scary as any haunted mansion and makes creepy iconography out of the most everyday things; you’ll never look at teacups the same way again. The score by Michael Abels is also very effective, often evoking a similar eeriness to Mica Levi’s work on Under the Skin but also able to adapt to the more mundane scenes.
Get Out is a modern horror masterpiece up there with other recent classics of the genre like It Follows and Don’t Breathe. It mines its relevant topic to the core to create a disturbing but thought-provoking and entertaining experience like no other. Jordan Peele has surprisingly revealed himself as a new potential master of horror, and if he can follow up this debut with equally impressive features then he could go all the way to the top.
FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10