Writer/ Director Jordan Peele makes the surprising leap from small screen comedy (Key and Peele) to cinema horror with surprisingly striking results. His feature debut is a frothy, creepy and subversive spin on small-town sci-fi horrors, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Village of the Damned and The Stepford Wives, with added/ suggested Satanic/ devil-worshiping quirks. These components combine to make Get Out a revitalising genre swill and the best horror film of the year so far.
Chris’ fish-out-of-water protagonist/ set-up is gilded beautifully by race related faux pas scenarios played surprisingly light-hearted/for laughs, thanks to Peele’s natural knack for comedy and garlanded further by nifty horror twists. Peele wisely avoids modern genre clichés yet worms in the kind of slinky, unsettling creepiness which made the films that inspired it so thrilling.
Twenty-something couple Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams), travel to the mid-American suburbs to spend a weekend with Rose’s parents. Despite being slightly concerned that Rose hasn’t told them he is African-American, Chris is reassured there is nothing to worry about. Upon arrival, Chris picks up on subtle racist traits from the in-laws which soon appear terrifyingly more widespread within the tight-knit community. Chris and Rose start to believe something sinister could be simmering beneath this serene, small-town surface and that a dangerous conspiracy may be to blame.
A jagged violin score titivates the otherwise tranquil opening credits sequence while contributing to Get Out’s perpetual edge. Instead of an over-abundance of stabbing, guts and stock set-pieces, Peele ripens his two main characters and fashions tensions between them by extracting off-kilter nuances then deploying them as red herrings to suggest something more orchestrated and devious could be at play. Chris and Rose are plausible, genial, with realistic issues to combat/ arcs to abide by and are both brilliantly performed by Kaluuya and Williams.
Rose’s mother Missy (Catherine Keener) is a psychotherapist with advanced hypnotism skills. Her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford) is an ex-professional runner, who once came second in a race to Jesse Owen. Peele resists cheaply bolstering his protagonists with quirks to make them unnecessarily distinctive and avoids painting Rose’s parents into pigeon holes. Missy and Dean’s African-American servants, Walter and Georgina (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) tease defects, especially when they go on to play more pivotal roles as the story progresses, but Rose’s dad acknowledges that in their vocations they are clichés and attempts to justify them being there.
Other supporting character traits seep to tease, intrigue and contribute to a wider blossoming terror which allows viewers to piece together what might be happening beneath the central story-line. Peele fashions terse, delicate drama to compliment his horror and service the plot. This is one of his most notable qualities as a film-maker, suggesting he could go on to work wonders within other genres.
A family soiree sees irrational locals congregate and flummox while red herrings are dangled and flippantly discarded. Three spine-tingling moments occur back-to-back in a scene which harvests more terror than one taciturnly calibrated jump scare could manage but Get Out has a wealth of wonderful, weirder facets to support its flourishing in a year of (so far) lesser mainstream horror features.
For a directorial debut from a TV comedian, Get Out is surprisingly beguiling, brave and fun. Despite some minor plot dithering during a slightly contrived finale which fails to extrapolate suspense effectively, Peele’s debut is a unique, scintillating conspiracy horror comedy with a twisted spin on a classic central concept. It is also festooned by traits that have been underused in mainstream cinema for quite some time.
by Daniel Goodwin