Director: Jordan Peele
Running Time: 104 minutes
After so many rave reviews from America being washed upon our digital shores, I could not wait to see the premiere of Get Out. I can tell you this; it certainly did not disappoint and has earned its name as one of the most innovative horror films since Cabin in the Woods and The Conjuring. I had never thought the pairing of race and horror could work; it seems like a recipe for disaster. Horror is a genre known for its stereotypes and cliches, especially those to do with people of colour. For example, most people are familiar with the fact that ‘The black guy is always the first to go’ in many slasher films. The first horror film to really give a black character centre stage was the 1992 movie Candyman starring Tony Todd. While this film tackled some racial issues, the story was framed from the perspective of a white, middle-class female. The plot of Get Out is seen through the lens of a young black man; a character that time and time again is cast as a victim or prop in the horror genre.
In Get Out’s opening scene, an unnamed young black man (Lakeith Stanfield) walks down a well- lit desperate housewives-esque suburban street. On the phone to a friend, he is followed by a white flashy car blaring the eerie Flanagan & Allen’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’. The song is the first example of the symbolism of a prey animal in the film. The unnamed man is pounced upon and dragged into the car. This scene sets to tone for our main characters dilemma of being a lone black man, cut off in an all-white community.
We cut to our main character Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya). Chris is a black photographer and lives in a nice apartment with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). They have a dog together and are packing for a weekend at Roses parents’ house. Nervous about his race being an issue, he warns his girlfriend that her parents may not be happy about him being black to which she jokes and puts him at ease. What starts off with banter and jokes, the viewer is tricked into believing we are in for a ‘Meet the Parents’ style film.
Chris meets the family; the typical middle class white liberal family. The family home is a plantation-sized rural mansion complete with a black housekeeper and gardener. The pair is even served iced tea on the lawn by the housemaid Georgia (Betty Gabriel). This harkening back to the plantations of old is evident as Roses dad Dean (Bradley Whitford) shows Chris his collection of ‘exotic artifacts’ he has collected on his travels and the use of ‘One Mississippi…” later in the film.
The family welcomes Chris with open arms unopposed to his relationship with their daughter. After Roses mother Missy (Catherine Keener) uses hypnosis on him to help him quit smoking he suddenly starts having crazy dreams and gets the uncanny feeling that something is not right. This feeling is further facilitated by his interaction with the other black folk in the film.
For his directorial debut, Jordan Peele took much inspiration from the film ‘The Stepford Wives’. His background as a comedian and satirist shines through in a film that is as much about race relations as it is horror. Peele captures that sense of menace behind the ‘too perfect’ smiles. This thriller is all encompassing with a mixture of sensory imagery, foreshadowing, suspense and unexpected comedy.
This film used many of the best elements of horror film that I admire, not just relying on shock value and cheap thrills. The symbolism of the hunter and his prey was prevalent throughout the film. The imposing head of the stag before Chris as he is strapped to the chair. Rose hitting the deer; a stark foreshadowing to the white hunter and ‘animal prey’ later on. Peele perfectly paces the film using shock sparingly and restraint when needed.
He hits the horror mark whilst also revealing the horror of liberal racism. In Get Out the villains are the middle-class white liberals, not the interbred, somewhat deformed rednecks we are used to seeing in the horror films of today. By using this particular section of white society the film shows how deeply ingrained racist attitudes are in our culture. That even with the best of intentions, even as a white person fighting against racism; the very fact that you are white is still a form of repression.
As a white watcher of the film, you wince as the east coast liberals try to show their supposed open-mindedness while interacting with Chris about how much they love Tiger Woods and Barrack Obama. You wince because these conversational missteps are all too familiar to you. You may have even made a few yourselves. This casual racism and cultural appropriation toward racism is the racism of today and has not yet been better represented than in this film.
The whole cast provides viewers with strong performances. Daniel Kaluuya shines as the lead Chris and Betty Gabriel does a brilliant job as housekeeper Georgia. The film’s soundtrack is also a brilliant addition. To conclude, everyone needs to GET OUT and watch this film.