Hollywood’s handling of race is far from perfect. While some attempts are applauded, film history is known to cast white Americans as the hero, while everyone else is a threat. Middle Eastern terrorists, violent African-American gangs, and “bad hombres” have all tried to destroy America, according to decades of films. Turning the tables is comedian Jordan Peele’s debut feature film ‘Get Out’, in a disturbing, nuanced, and brilliant way.
After five-months of dating, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has been invited to meet Rose’s (Allison Williams) family. While Rose’s parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) are white liberals, Chris is black, and worried his race will be an issue. At first the family is overly accommodating, with Rose’s father trying to connect with Chris by saying he “would’ve voted Obama in for a third-term if I could”. As the weekend progresses, Chris notices things aren’t quite right, leading to disturbing discoveries and a shocking truth.
The horror in ‘Get Out’ relies on slowly building a mood. Beginning with remarks coming out badly, an underlying hostility emerges as the film progresses, leading to more paranoia and reading into the words being said. Most of the film doesn’t have any violence in it, leading to tension waiting for someone to snap. It’s not just the older white people in the area, which there is a suspicious number of, who appear unaware of their own ignorance; even other black people speak and act odd, with hostile eyes appearing above a too-cheerful smile.
The only sign of relief from the building terror is Chris’ friend Rod (LilRel Howery), a TSA agent whose phone calls are meant to reassure Chris, but end up causing more doubt in a hilarious way. Outside of this, the film plunges viewers into a horror filled with many twists and turns. A sign of Peele’s mastery of the genre is even when you predict the direction the film is going, he can shock you with an unpredictable development in the same scene.
In Peele’s comedy, he and partner Keegan-Michael Key explore the black experience. For ‘Get Out’, Peele makes a brilliant creative decision to turn white liberals, who are usually the victims in horror films, into antagonists. Using ignorance from these well-meaning folk – including a lot of women asking if “it’s true about black men in bed” – as a foundation to build horror on is a stroke of genius. White liberals can be annoying when they try to understand the experiences of others, but taking their version of relatability to such extremes makes for unsettling viewing.
‘Get Out’ is a superb piece of horror filmmaking. The story is tight, far from clichéd, and its tackling of a timely social issue makes it more disturbing. ‘Get Out’ stands to become not just a classic of the genre, but an important film of our era.
4.5 out of 5 creepy smiles.