By Matthew Dillon
Jordan Peele, of the comedic duo Key & Peele, made his directorial debut with Get Out, a surprisingly effective combination of horror, comedy and politics. It is also one of those films where the less you know going into it, the more enjoyable it is. Get Out is one of the most genuinely suspenseful films I have seen in a while and it goes to some truly strange places, so it is best if you do not have an inkling of what happens next. On that note, this is one of the strangest horror films ever made. A horror movie with comedic elements and a heavy focus on race relations is definitely a hard sell and that is before you factor in some of the more bizarre twists and turns. Get Out takes a simple premise: an African-American photographer meets his white girlfriend’s parents in a secluded, affluent neighborhood, and turns it into a memorable film.
While it does get gruesome, Get Out understands that a good horror movie needs to do more than just dump gallons of blood on screen and have non-stop jump scares. Indeed, the film does get very graphic, but most of it happens towards the end of the film and is preceded by a lot of buildup. Even then, it is positively tame compared to a lot of what populates the horror genre nowadays. But, because Get Out puts its gore and violence in a very specific context and gives those actions the proper weight and drama they deserve, the content has far more impact than it usually does. The violence also helps mark both the plot and characters’ descent from the mundane to the bizarre, making that transition feel like a natural progression of the story.
Get Out is exceptionally well written and it is easily one of the smartest movies to be released in the last five years. The dialogue feels just as natural and unnatural as it needs to be as Get Out alternates between the two states impeccably.
The film is both hilarious and horrifying, two seemingly contradictory stakes that are used to create a contrast that makes the viewer even more uncomfortable. The film’s overall messages about racism, whether it be subtle or overt, historic or contemporary, are surprisingly well handled and thought provoking, playing into the horror elements of the film rather than against them. The film cultivates a consistently strong tension and leaves you in the strange position where you cannot wait to see what happens next, but you are also afraid of what that might be. The pacing, camerawork, soundtrack and characters all play into this atmosphere in tandem.
One of the horror genre’s biggest weaknesses is its often poorly written and unlikable characters who apparently have no sense of self-preservation. Get Out avoids that completely, particularly by having a very sympathetic, likable and intelligent protagonist. The main character, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) feels like a real person rather than just a set piece for a cheap scare. While all the actors are talented, Kaluuya particularly excels in his role and this goes a long way to help Get Out’s strange premise. The film is well cast and all the actors give their best performances. Get Out is the sort of intelligent, well made and engaging horror movie that we the genre needs more of.