So, what’s your “thang”, Chris? — a question posed to the black protagonist of Get Out. The seemingly innocuous question by his girlfriend’s white dad highlights the reductive stereotypes tackled in Get Out. Jordan Peele has boldly stepped into the director’s chair for the first time and delivered a scathing social critique that is dressed up as a horror film. It’s nothing new for the horror genre to be a vehicle for social commentary — Zombies as metaphor for consumerism, misogyny equating to pathological fear of feminism, yada yada yada. However, it is rare for horror to comment so vehemently on race, as is the case in Get Out. It’s a subtext that the film wears proudly on it sleeve for all to see, in fact it’s barely a subtext at all. It’s so assertive about racism, in comparison it makes American History X feel like a film about cheese making. Forget about your clichéd southern hillbilly racism, this is the benevolent but sinister brand of racism that is firmly ensconced in the underbelly of liberal America.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young Brooklyn photographer, is about to meet the parents of his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). He is understandably nervous — he’s black and she’s white. Their trip out of the city to her family’s secluded mansion makes him more uncomfortable when he meets their peculiar black servants. Rose’s mum (Catherine Keener) is hellbent on hypnotising him to cure his smoking habit and her dad (Bradley Whitford) overcooks his efforts to let Chris know he’s not racist. Clearly, all is not as it seems.
Right from the start Get Out turns the typical horror tropes on their head and establishes a different set of rules for what is a “safe place” and who are “safe people”. The opening sequence sees a black male accosted on the streets of a white suburban neighbourhood. Such locations are typically familiar and safe territory in horror, but here they are presented as dark and hostile. By contrast the introduction of Chris’s homely Brooklyn flat is adorned with his photographs of black life within a housing project — these are Chris’s “safe” places, and as he is the central character that we are supposed to identify with, it throws up some interesting and fresh perspectives.
Get Out excels when it’s developing mood rather than jump scares — its undertones being far more vocal and interesting than the plot which unfortunately gets a little carried away with itself towards the end. Despite this Get Out is well worth seeing and is a genuinely fresh take on the genre.
You can see the published review here.