Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Coarse Language and Violence)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.getoutfilm.com
Opening Day: 16 February 2017
Synopsis: In Universal Pictures’ Get Out, a speculative thriller from Blumhouse (producers of The Visit, Insidious series and The Gift) and the mind of Jordan Peele, when a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s family estate, he becomes ensnared in a more sinister real reason for the invitation. Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, Sicario) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams, Girls), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy (Catherine Keener, Captain Phillips) and Dean (Bradley Whitford, The Cabin in the Woods).At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.
‘Get Out’ wants you to realize a simple but extremely timely and important fact: just because America has elected an African-American President twice doesn’t mean that it is any less racist; or even, just because someone may have voted for former President Barack Obama twice, and publicly declared that he or she would have voted for him a third time if he or she could, doesn’t mean that he or she is not or is no longer racist. In fact, such tendencies may become even more insidious with complacency, and therefore even more dangerous when eventually manifested. Given the rise in hate crimes immediately in the wake of Trump’s electoral win and the heightened rhetoric that still persists even to today, Jordan Peele’s (you’ll probably know him as one half of Comedy Central’s Key and Peele) directorial debut could not have been more prescient, especially because it is precisely these tendencies that a supposedly post-racial America is grappling with right now.
But just putting aside allegory for now, the low-budget thriller that is already one of the bona fide box-office success stories of this year is also a gripping, edge-of-your-seat watch. In its gist, the plot revolves around a weekend visit which Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) pays to his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents – Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) – at their beautiful suburban manse, who do not yet know that their daughter is dating an African-American. The less you know beforehand about what ensues the better, but suffice to say at this point that it doesn’t erupt in home invasion or anything as obvious as Blumhouse’s other title ‘The Purge’ – in fact, its ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ premise unfolds in a twisted way that bears resemblance to the classic 1975 similarly suburban-set horror ‘The Stepford Wives’, which writer-producer-director Peele has openly acknowledged as one of his sources of inspiration for this film.
Indeed, though Dean and Missy are conscientious liberals and warm and welcoming towards Chris, there is just something off about the household that unnerves him. It isn’t just about how their housekeepers Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) are black, but more how they seem constantly suspended in a state of glazed docility and behave in an almost lobotomized manner. What is it too about Dean’s story of his father, i.e. Rose’s grandfather, getting ticked about losing the nomination for the 1936 Olympics to Jesse Owens? Or Missy offering him endless cups of tea while urging him to try out her hypnosis therapy to cure his smoking habit? Or Rose’s creepy dudebro sibling Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) who speaks of his ‘beast’-like physique and tells him how awesome he'd be at mixed martial arts if he’d bother to train? That unease culminates in Dean and Missy’s annual house party attended by a bunch of wealthy white folk, whose small talk with Chris focuses on his ‘genetic makeup’, his physical fitness and his designs on Rose.
Behind these signs of ‘white privilege’ is an even more sinister form of superiority, which is the mystery that Chris (and us watching) spend most of the time trying to decipher. Without spoiling anything that the trailers haven’t already revealed, Chris’ interactions with the other ‘white’ guests at the party where the only other black guest Andrew (Lakeith Stanfield) is dressed like a dandy and dating a white woman twice his age reeks of exploitation and entitlement. There is a lot more nuance at work here that will probably resonate more with a specifically more African-American race-conscious audience: the display of ‘white partner fragility’ when Chris tries to reassure Rose that she is not complicit in her family’s racism; the implicit reward that African-Americans who date ‘white’ people receive in white social circles; and last but not least, the ‘mandingoism’ fantasy in how Chris sees Andrew as a white woman’s hypersexualised lover. But even if these escape you, the allusions to slavery will not, especially given how it is taken here to fetishistic extremes.
Oh yes, Peele’s intention here is socially-conscious horror, and he has certainly learnt from the best. The opening scene that sees Andrew getting snatched while walking down the dimly lit sidewalk of a quiet suburban street into a white car gently playing the 1939 novelty song ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’ balances discomfort with hilarity. Scenes of Chris’ hypnotism are reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick, while the expert interweaving of social satire amidst the jump scares owes its debt to the likes of George A. Romero (see ‘Night of the Living Dead’) and John Carpenter. Like these two horror masters at their gleeful best, Peele doesn’t hold back on the gore in the third act; though thankfully, the shift into splattery mode is satisfying without feeling exploitative, its sheer visceral thrills enhanced by LilRel Howery’s scene-stealing turn as Chris’ motor-mouthed best friend Rod with hyperactive but surprisingly clairvoyant paranoid instincts.
For African-American audiences, Rod is undoubtedly their surrogate, unafraid to call out racist bullshit as he sees it while looking through white liberal pieties and racial micro-aggressions. With ‘Get Out’, Peele offers a subversive, sometimes hilarious, and often unexpectedly nuanced commentary on the state of black-white relations in contemporary America (though not necessarily updated in the current era of Trump’s presidency). It is also every bit an excellent horror, spot-on in its executions of horror conventions – the basement apparently closed off due to black mold that ultimately holds its own secrets; sinister figures passing quickly and suddenly in the background; and cathartic displays of violence and gore – that earns its place among Blumhouse’s very best. Of course, because of its timely and sharp observations on race and culture, ‘Get Out’ is a horror of a very different mould, and precisely the reason why this is the must-see genre piece of the year.
(Scary not just in its expert execution of horror conventions but also in its sharp race-conscious observations, 'Get Out' is well-deserving of its critical and commercial acclaim)
Review by Gabriel Chong