Miles Jackson reviews Get Out, the latest horror that pushes Trump’s America to the moral extreme.
American horror has experienced something of a resurgence in the indie scene recently, with filmmakers such as Robert Eggers (The Witch) and Anna Biller (The Love Witch) crafting love letters to the genre that aren’t afraid to draw from horrors of the past, more focused on inducing dread than providing cheap jump scares.
But where Jordan Peele’s Get Out differs from its peers is in its broad zeitgeist appeal, using the tenets, tropes and cliches of modern Hollywood horror and applying them to the most culturally relevant subject of the moment; the black experience in modern day America.
To be sure, Get Out is not a profound feat of visual horror filmmaking in the way that The Witch was. There are ‘cattle-prodding’ jump scares accompanied by sinister piano chords and the climax feels more like an action movie than true horror. It is, at its heart, a popcorn movie. But this broad tone is precisely why Get Out works.
Peele very intentionally coopts a universally recognised cinematic language and utilises it to explore the racism – both explicit and institutional – that black people must face on a daily basis. In turn, the universality of this language allows for the message to be as accessible to a mainstream audience as possible.
The film follows a black photographer, Chris, who accompanies his girlfriend to meet her white upper-class family. The parents are amicable but for a series of mildly offensive blunders that reveal their insularity from the real world, yet Chris is disquieted by the creepily stilted black duo that tend to the house and soon finds his childhood traumas exploited in disturbing ways.
Chris is played by British actor Daniel Kaluuya, who has long been an extremely promising talent in previous roles on television shows like Black Mirror, plays such as Blue/Orange and here makes a breakthrough performance. Kaluuya is practically a contortionist when it comes to facial expressions and he perfectly expresses both wide-eyed incredulity and fear at his surroundings.
It’s the rare mainstream horror film that succeeds in discomforting its audience
Though Get Out is more The Conjuring than The Shining in terms of the scares it goes for, it’s still an accomplished example of filmmaking in its own right. Peele – nobody’s first choice for a cinematic darling based on his previous (rather funny) sketch work – is a first time director that knows how to construct an image.
He perfectly exploits the pristine, sterile cleanliness of white suburbia; symmetry is constantly employed throughout the film to imbue the parents’ house with an eerie sense of perfection. The recurring image of a spoon swirling through tea is unsettling in itself; it’s also the rare film that actually understands how to light black people at nighttime.
Despite the lowbrow nature of its scares, the film still proves Peele as a strikingly confident filmmaker. These images of suburban perfection are perfectly undercut by the film’s sociopolitical commentary on the various forms of racism suffered by black people.
Peele expertly draws attention to the myriad myths, assumptions and institutional methods by which black people are objectified, fetishised and abused by even the most ardent of white liberals.
— Get Out (@GetOutMovie) March 17, 2017
If there are qualms with Get Out, they are minor. The jump scares work precisely because the thing they represent is so terrifyingly real, being the rare instance of which a usually cheap trick still manages to unsettle.
The finale might be a bit too much like an action movie for a horror purist such as myself, but its tone of cathartic vindication as opposed to dread-inducing desperation is suited to the kind of story Peele is telling.
Get Out succeeds on a number of levels. It’s the rare mainstream horror film that succeeds in discomforting its audience, as well as a searing satire of Trump’s America, with a slyly acerbic wit that mirrors films like Scream.
It establishes Jordan Peele as a seriously promising talent and hopefully marks the beginning of Daniel Kaluuya’s ascent into stardom. It will likely be one of the best films of the year; a strikingly current and wildly entertaining horror feast.
What did you think of Get Out? Let us know on @EpigramFilm.