The horror genre has had a massive upswing in recent years. Films like The Babadook (2013), It Follows (2014), and The Witch (2015), have added new narrative and aesthetic flourishes to the genre, and rejuvenated its artistic standing. With this new revival also comes a newfound appreciation for allegorical narrative: these films aren’t just scary as hell, but they have something to say apart from simply spooking you.
The new horror comedy Get Out is one of the shining examples of this type of film. Written and directed by Jordan Peele, of the beloved sketch comedy show Key and Peele, Get Out deftly mixes humor and comedy, as well as providing vital and cutting commentary on race relations and the depiction of African Americans in film. It’s easily one of the most inventive, enjoyable, and important horror films in recent years.
The basic framework of Get Out is one that has been told many times over: a black man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is going with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) in a potentially awkward first meet-up with her parents. She assures him that her parents are incredibly liberal and that there is nothing to worry about. This is seemingly the case when they arrive, as the parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener), are welcoming are polite, albeit with more than a more than a few awkward race-related exchanges. However, something does not seem quite right with the black servants the family has around the home.
Get Out is expertly paced throughout its run time. It starts out slow and steady, building with hints of eeriness, and menial uncomfortable exchanges. As the secrets behind Rose’s family are revealed, the film becomes increasingly pummeling in its anxiety. By the time the big reveals occur, and the climax begins, these feelings reach a critical level, and the jaw is left agape, both from the shear originality in the directions the story takes, but also from how genuinely effective it is in captivating its audience.
The themes and moods that this film juggles are finely balanced as well. Get Out is a sincerely scary film, but it different ways than usual. The cinematography effectively captures Chris’ isolation in this house through grim and claustrophobic set pieces. The music is effective as well, consistently eerie, but never bombastic. But thrills are absolutely not the only areas the film succeeds. It’s actualy quite funny. Chris’ friend Rod (LilRel Howery) a TSA agent who is left to babysit the dog, is pitch perfect comic relief. He acts as a vehicle for what would be standard audience responses to the film. His exuberant and animated responses to the events of the film as he seeks to help his are not only hilarious, but provide a brilliant layer of self-awareness to the film.
The area where the film really shines however, is what it has to say about race. Low-hanging fruit would have been to go after the backwoods, redneck brand of racism, but instead, the film tackles the benevolent racism of white liberals, and does so in such a way that is immensely creative. The racism extends from casual character remarks like how the father unwarranted mention that he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have to a family friend specifically mentioning he knows of and likes Tiger Woods. This brand of racism is put in high gear in this film to terrifying levels, but also in a way that turns the horror genre inside out.
How often does the black character live in a horror movie? How often is it that they are the ones fighting for survival on their own? Chris as a character is unique not only for a horror film, but films in general, never fitting in a stereotype, always aware, and acutely aware. His actions in the final moments of the film take what is the usual aspects of horror films and turns them around. The final scene is absolutely unforgettable, in that it forces you to look the current conditions of not only film, but society as a whole. It is one that is simultaneously brilliant, hilarious, and incredibly satisfying.
As a film at any point in someone’s canon, it would be a fantastic one, but for a debut it is astounding. Jordan Peele proves that he not only has the to write both hilarious comedy, and effective horror, but also make a powerful statement doing it. If Get Out really scares you, you are encouraged to take a better look at our current society and see why exactly that is.