Horror has often had a role in discussing some of the issues with our world – in his directorial debut, Jordan Peele looks at racism, creating a well-done horror comedy that finds fear in the real world as much as it does in the problems our protagonist faces.
Up-and-coming photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating for a while, and they’ve reached a big milestone – it’s time to meet the parents. Rose invites Chris for a weekend family getaway upstate with her parents, Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford). At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behaviour as nervous attempts to process and deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship but, as the weekend progresses, he begins to suspect that something else is going on. Investigating, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a horrifying truth he could never have imagined.
I enjoyed this film, and there were elements that I found to be horrific – I don’t know if I would describe it fully as horror, however. There are sequences that are horror, and there are elements that are comedy, and Peele is assured and competent at flitting between the two, often using the change in tone to amplify the shock or the amusement generated. It has been termed a social horror, and that’s a far better description – it explores social issues, but never loses track of the movie by dwelling too heavily on them. Heavy-handedness would have really made this film suffer, and the restraint helps increase the tension.
Often, the more upsetting and horrifying moments are those we recognise from our own world. Get Out has racism at its heart, and it is a far more nuanced look than we’re used to. Although racism towards black people is a considerate part of the movie, Peele also skewers black attitudes towards white people and the attitudes of the left towards racism (a fact that does make the movie all the more complex – the movie wisely avoids the use of token KKK or neo-Nazis to try something a bit different).
Kaluuya is at the heart of the picture, and he boasts the everyman quality necessary to help him serve as the audience’s conduit figure. We, like him, feel that there is something wrong here, but we’re also well aware that this could just be paranoia – reading into a situation too much in order to deal with his own unease. He also has an easy chemistry with Williams, who is sadly relegated to be a plot device throughout most of the film, although she does get the cast develop a bit more towards the end.
Supporting cast-wise, the standout is Lil Rel Howery, who plays Chris’ friend and the most overtly comedic character of the movie. He steals almost every scene he’s in, and the laughs he generates feel both earned and organic to the situation. Howery makes a fine addition, especially allowing Peele the chance to explore some comedy without detracting to any great degree from the main storyline. Keener and Whitford are fine but don’t have too much to do – their ability to seem off even as they act amiable is very fitting to the film, though. (Plus, it’s always good to see Whitford in anything – give the man more work!)
Get Out is not quite the instant horror classic some are proclaiming it to be, but it is a fine social satire and it eagerly tries to do something different in a genre often summarised by stagnation. It is deft at combining comedy and horror and, despite some shortcomings, it does make the viewer chuckle and feel horrified, both at the horror movies and the reality of black people in America.
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya (Chris Washington), Allison Williams (Rose Armitage), Catherine Keener (Missy Armitage), Bradley Whitford (Dean Armitage), Caleb Landry Jones (Jeremy Armitage), Stephen Root (Jim Hudson)
Running Time: 104 Mins