Suspense. It’s a concept associated with horror and yet seldom the focal point – well at least not in this day and age. Fortunately Get Out does something different by harkening back to the days of suspense that made 70’s horror like the Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby classics. The story is one that we have seen before and even the writer/director Jordan Peele has stated the obvious influence of the Stepford Wives. Peele utilizes the premise of that film and translates it to modern conventions. He is able to appropriate it by adding modern social commentary and strong filmmaking. The film analyzes a subtle fear that many African Americans have and does so in an artistic way.
The plot of the movie is quite simple yet poignant. It revolves around Chris, a young African American man, who is invited by his Caucasian girlfriend Rose to visit her parent’s home. While there, he finds himself immediately uncomfortable, noticing the strange behavior of this affluent and seemingly liberal family. As he becomes deeply entrenched within the community, the strangeness only deepens, and Chris soon discovers that his life may be in danger.
Get Out makes a strong case that horror need not be completely reliant on the jump scares and shocking displays of gore. It avoids the various trappings that most other films fall into – focusing too much on the blood and guts, or placing too much emphasis on the “creature of the week”. Get Out instead takes its time by focusing on the characters and developing an actual, compelling story within a strange, surprisingly resonant world. By building tension carefully and establishing the environment in detail, the scares, when they hit, are all the more frightening.
In Get Out, the community itself is the monster – an initial familiarity within the environment slowly betrays sinister undertones that bubble throughout the first half of the film. The attendees seem like average, albeit eccentric, people, yet always with an air of exclusivity about them. There is a feeling of isolation that will likely resonate with anyone that’s felt out of place in a tightly-knit group – no matter the reason.
Each actor delivers phenomenal work and this statement is perhaps especially true for the two leads. Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Chris, conveys so many complicated emotions – all while maintaining an honest everyman aura. Alison Williams, who plays Rose, has similar complexities to her character, which she represents beautifully throughout the film.
In fact, if there’s any criticism to be leveled, it’s not towards the craft on display, but rather its content. The social commentary is striking, but intentionally lacking in nuance. Get Out is an obvious commentary on deep-seeded racism – its themes interwoven with its genre fixings so completely that it recalls District 9’s commentary on apartheid. While Get Out stops short of “satire”, there’s little doubt that its social commentary will generate more discussion than the horror itself. Still, it’s nice to see a genre movie that resonates on multiple levels, and we can all hope that other filmmakers will be inspired by what the Get Out achieves.
Perhaps the biggest star of all is Jordan Peele. Known for his vibrant sketch comedy – along with the odd film role here and there – Get Out marks his directorial debut. As a first showing, Peele displays great skill and promise – not only by leaving audiences with one of the most refreshing horror flicks in years, but by commentating on a sensitive subject in a uniquely thrilling way.