The horror genre so often works best when steeped in reality, to take emotions and flaws from within our own humanity to evoke and display tropes that will terrify viewers. The Babadook used depression as a device, and It Follows lingered over the notion of sexual desire, and these are two of the finest horrors of recent years, away from supernaturalism, instead utilising themes that audience members can resonate with on a personal level. Jordan Peele’s Get Out tackles racism, and while the writer/director may be best known for his comedic offerings, this endeavour is far from funny – it’s pretty disturbing stuff.
Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris Washington, invited along by his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to spend the weekend at her parent’s suburban abode. “Have you told them I’m black?” he asks, only to be shot down, reassured that he has nothing to worry about, except perhaps her father declaring his support for Obama. When they arrive and are introduced to Rose’s parents, Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) Chris appreciates he may have misjudged the situation, though with the arrival of Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) comes an intensity, and it’s a fear that is fed when various guests arrive for an annual get together. Feeling as though all eyes are on him from the local white folk, it’s more the peculiar behaviour of the African American staff, groundsman Walter (Marcus Henderson) and maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) which starts to make Chris’ mind wonder.
Paranoia is a theme that sets the tone for many a horror picture to thrive off, and it’s utilised emphatically in this instance, as Chris becomes suspicious he’s constantly being judged based on the colour of his skin. In post-Trump America it’s a fascinating area to delve into and explore, and even more so when many of the viewers, who will be white, embody this African American protagonist, to get a sense for what it may feel like to be living in a country that doesn’t represent your values, or seem to protect who you are. On a more negative note, the paranoia could be prolonged further, for we learn of the family’s motives too early on, and this is a film that comes into its element when revelling in the notion of mystery, much more impactful when we don’t know what is happening, as opposed to when we do.
But the real star of this piece is Peele, with such a meticulously, intelligently crafted screenplay, with every line feeling as though it has implications for what’s to come. The way the filmmaker builds the suspense and plays with the perceptions of the audience is masterful, and with a chilling score, and early sequences like the running over of a deer on the highway, this all seeks in unsettling the viewer, to keep us on guard. As a film that has so many hidden messages and moments that filter in to the narrative at a later stage, it would make for an immensely pleasurable second watch. In fact, it may even be worth a third viewing, too.
Get Out is released on March 17th