It can be hard to determine what makes arbitrary concepts like fear universal. Likewise, it can be hard to portray something like racial discrimination and fear in a way that anyone can understand and be afraid of. To film one of these concepts well would be impressive enough, but doing them this well simultaneously is certainly no small feat. such is the case for first-time director/writer Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a film that is at times uncomfortably frightening, uproariously hillarious and socially relevant.
More then just a gimmick, Get Out‘s racial horror is shocking, most often in untraditional ways. While the film does offer plenty of gore and scares, the lasting uncomfortable moments come from situational comments and moments that the film layers throughout. Placing the audience into the shoes of Chris (Daniel Kaluuyah) forces us to aknowledge the objectification that often comes with racial stereotyping, and the uncomfortable/downright scary feelings that get associated with it. The films most telling moment of this, the party at Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents house, explores how stereotyping and labeling can harmfully lead to objectifying a whole race, and smartly points out how even “positive stereotypes” like “black men are better in bed” dehumanizes people. It’s an uncomfortable element that shows men and women like Chris are responded to by the identity of “black”, rather then the character of who they actually are, making Get Out‘s subtext that much more socially relevant.
For those looking looking for more straightforward horror elements, however, the film doesn’t disappoint. While the term “hitchcockian” has certainly been overused in recent memory, Get Out stands as a prime example of this idea, a film that is as much about its mystery as it is in scaring people. The films plot twist is slowly revealed, never giving the audience more information then the characters, and ramps up in both tension and intensity once the 2nd act twist is revealed. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener do tend to chew up a lot of scenery, but they do so with just enough subtlety to make it seem believable that Chris wouldn’t suspect their actions completely until it was too late. The last half hour is as tense as horror conclusions come, thanks to plenty of shocking moments, great surprises and a lack of reliance on horror tropes like jump scares or excessive gore.
But what about the comedy? Due to Jordan Peele’s involvement, some people may be expecting Key and Peele-stylereferential humor, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The film smartly remains self-contained throughout, keeping most of the comedy centered around the situations the characters find themselves in. Actor LilRel Howery gets most of the best material, in a role that basically puts him in place as the audience, constantly questioning why no one else sees the clearly messed up stuff going on to hillarious effect. The film is also covered in uncomfortable humor that points out racial stereotyping that often occurs in certain cultures (namely the afformentioned party scene), that’s likely to make audiences think about how they may act in certain situations.
If I have any major complaint, it’s in the films’ balancing of comedy and horror. Without spoiling anything, a major part of the horror aspect of this film is brought to the forefront, but is then followed up by a side scene of comedy. This cutting back between comedy and horror occurs for a good portion of the film, until the final act begins, and it’s unfortunately distracting. The scares are still present, and the comedic notes are all hit wonderfully, but it loses a bit of balance in these moments that I felt may pull certain audience members out of the film.
Despite this minor complaint, Get Out is a horror film that excels at showing the terrifying realities of racial prejudice and stereotyping in our society. For every extreme moment you know couldn’t happen in real life, there are just as many uncomfortable things that likely happen to black people every day. And even if you aren’t looking for a film to make you think about all of these things, everything from the scares, comedic and performances are among the best in recent memory. An absolute must see, for non-horror and horror fans alike
Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 9.5 Deer Heads out of 10