Horror film in review: “Get Out”
Nathaniel Nelson / Winonan
I’ve talked before about how indie horror is having a comeback, but “Get Out” is something else entirely. Many of you have seen Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s collaborative show “Key and Peele,” but that says nothing for what Peele is able to accomplish in his debut film. It still has a good dose of his trademark humor, but surrounded in deep sociopolitical commentary and thrilling upheavals of horror conventions. “Get Out” is like no other film I’ve seen this year, or for that matter, any time before.
To go deep into the plot would be a disservice for those who will actually go see the film, so I’ll try to keep it short. The film follows photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) who is brought by his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to visit her affluent parents in the backwoods. Her parents appear to be accepting and welcoming at first, almost overwhelmingly so, but quickly the façade melts away and their sinister intentions are revealed. I’d love to say more, but the surprises are what makes the film shine.
This is Jordan Peele’s first film, but it doesn’t seem like it. The way he handles every aspect of the film is exemplary, a comedic auteur in his infancy. The visuals are subdued, yet eminently realistic and identifiable. The setting is both eerie and comfortable, and the subtle shifts in tone throughout the flick ramp the tension up considerably. It also moves surprisingly slow for a horror film, but that works in the film’s favor. Peele lets viewers dwell in each and every scene, contemplating and panicking over what will come next. It’s shot with the hands of someone who understand what makes a horror film work but twithout all the jump scares and gory nonsense. It’s tense, brooding and a complete thrill.
Both Kaluuya and Williams are spectacular in their roles, with great dynamics and some wonderfully natural chemistry between the two, and the rest of the supporting cast is a joy. Kaluuya in particularly was a surprise, playing a complex character of both humor and horror with effortless tact. The whole film is well-rounded to the core, and that core is something you’ve never even dreamed of.
That core, the writing, is what truly shines here. Not since “It Follows” have I seen such a wild and unique horror film concept. While it will for sure appease horror fan sensibilities, the film is much more than just a horror film. In essence, “Get Out” is a film about racial identity, white gentrification and a complete lack of understanding for those with privilege. Peele uses the framework of cult and mad scientist tropes to attack modern sociopolitical climates, using the viewpoint of Chris as a stand in for all of black society. Seeing other men turned ‘white’ through hypnosis (and a few other methods, which we’ll keep for a surprise) may seem humorous at first, but there is a deeper meaning. The idea of a white-centric family stealing the black identity is crucial to the film and instead of seeming preachy or heavy handed, it just works.
Now, if “Get Out” stuck exclusively to its horror roots, it would still be a solid film. But this is Jordan Peele we’re talking about: he’s a funny dude. The humor in the film is a riot, but it’s subtle and, more importantly, natural enough that it doesn’t soil the tension. There’s a fine line for horror comedies, with most tending to lean more toward the comedic side, like “Shaun of the Dead” or “The Cabin in the Woods.” Instead, Peele lets the comedy take a backseat to the horror by placing it outside of the main setting, mainly using Chris’s friend Rodney “Rod” Williams (Lil Rel Howery) as the jokester. It’s often a little silly, yes, but it both adds to the story and character relationships and gives the film some much needed levity.
“Get Out” is a new high watermark for horror comedy, and a spectacular debut for Peele. It’s funny, thrilling, high-concept and horrific; the perfect combination for a sleeper hit. But above all, the film makes you think. It has deeper messages beyond just entertainment, which sets it apart from any of its contemporaries. Get ready to be spooked, enthralled and challenged in the same two hour sitting. 5/5
By Nathaniel Nelson