Review: Get Out (2017)

Get Out

Rating

Director

Jordan Peele

Screenplay

Jordan Peele

Length

1h 44m

Starring

Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, Lil Rel Howery

MPAA Rating

R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references

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Review

What defines horror cinema in a modern landscape? Is it a willingness to explore complex ideas that carry an underlying thread of realism or is it a fantastic concept that conveys horror through violence and terror? Get Out proposes to be a little bit of both.

One of the best sketch comedy series on television was Key & Peele, an irreverent blend of crass and exploitative humor with rich context bubbling beneath the service. Running the gamut from the outrageous to the pointed, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele had put together one of the funniest and most astute comedy programs in recent memory. One half of that duo, Peele, has turned his eye towards cinema in the capacity of a director. With his feature debut, Peele has shown a willingness to twist conventions to suit a dramatic, symbolic, and frighteningly authentic experience.

A young couple, Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, travel to her parents’ home in order to introduce him. Kaluuya is concerned when Rose (Williams), who is white, hasn’t told her parents that he, Chris (Kaluuya), is black. She assures him that her father (Bradley Whitford) will be the first to acknowledge that he’d vote for Obama for a third term if he could. From that revelation forward, Get Out establishes itself as a incisive rebuke of white guilt and subtle racism.

As Peele explores the dynamic of police skepticism, internalized racism, and outright fear of exploitation, Get Out follows traditional horror structures to convey its insightful exploration of these sociopolitical concepts. Peele’s screenplay is astute without being underhanded. It understand what horror is about while indulging in the types of violent tropes seen frequently in horror since the 1970s while infusing the surroundings with fascinating imagery and symbolism.

With the rise of slasher films in the 1970s and 1980s, horror became synonymous with the gross and bloody spectacles of films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Less attention was paid to the nearly-bloodless strain of horror films that traded on situations to provide context for frightening events. The likes of Rosemary’s Baby, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Wicker Man were creepy without being violent. Get Out belongs to this latter group of films, seeming to draw its most significant influence from that Edward Woodward film Wicker Man.

Some of the most fantastic symbolism on display comes late in the film where its revelation may impact plot elements, but references to slavery, rebellion, cotton-picking, and myriad other concepts are both overt and subtle give the film a fascinating depth that other recent horror offerings do not posses.

There is, essentially, space in the cinematic universe from gross-out pictures with interesting plot devices like Saw and Hostel, but the core of horror philosophy is best explored in films like Get Out. The film successfully conveys complex ideas with an underlying foundation of realism while also presenting a concept so conceivably fantastic that it conveys physical, mental, and emotional fright in palpable ways. Slasher films don’t have to be brainless concoctions intended to gross out the audience. There’s room in the tent for films such as Get Out and the genre is all the better for it.

Exploring racial tensions in modern America, Get Out seeks to give the audience a glimpse into the troubling and often horrific treatment of black Americans. Racism isn’t all about white hoods and cross-burning. The more subtle and institutional expressions of racism are concepts that seem foreign to a large number of Americans as they have never directly experienced them. Peele’s film does a terrific job expressing those ideas and presenting them to the audience.

Get Out is a watershed film that takes horror into a realm that resembles that of science-fiction, exploring culture and society through the lens of fantastical elements or horrific situations. It’s a classic horror film in style and execution as well as a realignment of the genre in the modern cinematic landscape.

Oscar Prospects

Guarantees: Original Screenplay
Probables: Picture
Potentials: Director

Review Written

December 7, 2017

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