Film Editor Alex McDonald reviews Get Out, the horror film that has taken the world by storm
Horror is a genre that has all but lost its voice. Tiresome jump scares and even more tiresome sequels have given rise to underwritten, clichéd characters and unnecessary gore. There are exceptions to the rule of course: 2014’s The Babadook, 2015’s It Follows and 2016’s The Witch shed the trappings of mainstream horror to become fantastic pieces of cinema. The pattern of one standout horror film a year may not change, but the rest of 2017 will have a tough time unseating Get Out from the top spot.
Focused on a character all too often marginalised within the genre, Get Out sees the black Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks, a worry which she is quick to dispel. Her parents welcome him with open arms, but Chris’ discomfort is plain to see, especially when the only other black people in this heavenly suburbia are “the help” who act rather strangely. Something sinister is lurking underneath the smiles.
Sketch comic Jordan Peele (one half of Key & Peele) is known for making people laugh. But now the debut writer-director will also be known for making people scream. Get Out is a masterclass in chilling horror. There is a creeping sense of dread from the very first scene leading to a mighty crescendo of intense thrills. Peele handles this transition from chiller to thriller with remarkable ease, cashing in on the skin crawling tension he built up in the first two acts.
While the audience is fearful, Peele is certainly fearless in his social commentary. He side-steps the easy target of vindicated racists in Trump’s America and sets his sights on the rich, liberal elite of suburbia. Racism is truly insidious here and seeps through the name dropping of Jesse Owens and overt support of Obama, and Peele highlights the reductive stereotypes by which the black male has been fetishized in one scene full of nervous laughter. Get Out’s cutting critique shows that being a black man in a white neighbourhood is far scarier than a monster that hides under the bed.
All of the performances on display are great, with Kaluuya shining in the lead role. His glum acceptance of what one might call “casual racism” inspires rage in the audience, wishing he would lash out and fight back. But his portrayal of Chris is all too real, his resignation too well-practiced that it also provokes horror. Peele’s comedy background finds its way into proceedings through Lil Rey Howery, as Chris’ friend and ultimately the audience’s mouthpiece, who provides excellent levity between scenes of unbearable tension.
If I were to nit-pick this fantastic film, and I mean really nit-pick, I would say that not all of the twists are as surprising as they’d like to be, but that does little to derail the effectiveness of the timing with which they are deployed. Also there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plot hole. Other than that, Get Out is a thrill ride like no other in contemporary cinema.
VERDICT: For those looking for a little more depth in horror between all the jump scares, Get Out is exactly what you need. Peele has crafted a provocative film that is full of subtext and combines edge-of-your-seat thrills with razor-sharp social commentary that is as culturally relevant as film’s like Best Picture winner, Moonlight. If you aren’t planning on it already, stop wasting time online, GET OUT of the house and go see Get Out.