Get Out looked like trash. After seeing the trailers a couple of times attached to various films in the lead up to its release, I had dismissed it as another horror misstep, your typical 'early year' flaky horror flick simply designed as counter-programming, to fill the gap in essence. But then, something huge happened: launching to critical acclaim, rave reviews, huge box office receipts and even a few whispers of future Oscar glory, the film captured a zeitgeist and is quickly becoming one of the most successful horror films of all time, never mind one that infuses comedy into the fold. The sub-genre is arguably the most difficult one to nail, emphasised by its dreadful success rate - so how does this example, marking the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, fare and should you get out to see it?
Black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) leaves with his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), for the suburbs to meet her parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener). Although she tells him she has never had a black boyfriend, she assures him that her family are not racist and will accept him as they have her previous partners. With his concerns initially alleviated, he slowly begins to realise something is not quite right, when Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson), two housekeepers, continue to act peculiar. As you can probably tell from the marketing and plot summary alone, the film deals with themes such as racism and divide in this biting social satire and commentary, that has seemingly struck a chord amongst cinemagoers, particularly with audiences on the other side of the pond as it now begins its international roll-out.
Despite my initial reluctancy that a horror-comedy could ever be effective - having never seen or fully brought into an example before - Get Out sets the standard unbelievably high. Horror and comedy are such opposing genres with such alternative aims, yet Peele uses elements of each and blends them into an almost faultless film. The uncomfortable use of humour helps craft an uneasy atmosphere that is perpetuated throughout the entire film, sustained from the first frame (which is very possibly one of the most effective horror opening scenes in recent memory) until the very last. It indulges in a few horror conventions but the infusion of comedy is enough to disconcert you, with every jump and scare feeling fresh and unique. All of this is in thanks to Peele's assured direction; it's unfathomable that this is only his directorial debut, as he projects an unwavering confidence and skill, from the balance of tone to the bold direction, the razor-sharp script to the solid execution. Of the script, Peele somehow manages to avoid pushing its themes too drastically and forcefully, understanding when and where self-control is required and refusing to play the blame game. It really is masterful and the type of film the edge of your seat is made for, tremendously running at an efficient and unpredictable pace all the while.
Anchoring the film further is the terrific central performance, as well as some enduring supporting turns. Black Mirror's Daniel Kaluuya delivers a performance of nuance, control and restraint during the first half, making for an even more impactful second half that allows him to flex his acting muscles wonderfully. There's something inherently likeable about Chris, upturning horror character tropes effectively and giving your someone to root for as everything unfolds. Allison Williams is tremendous as Rose, exuding a warmth and compassion that ensures the pair are well-matched particularly when contrasted with Chris' more sedated personality; she shows a lot of promise here and her name is well worth making a note of, in a similar vein as for what The Witch did for Anya Taylor-Joy's. Disconcerting and alarming, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener and Caleb Landry Jones deliver startling performances as the more questionable members of the Armitage family, alongside 'family members' Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson who perform with a great sense of control and poise. Lil Rey Howery is flat-out hilarious as Rod, a friend of Chris and Rose, with a continually amusing and sharp portrayal as his concerned friend. Each of the actors, most noticeably Whitford and Gabriel walk the fine line between dramatic and comedic performances expertly, always delivering when needed, including one scene in which the latter, a shaken Georgina, begins manically laughing with tears streaming down her face; you honestly do not know whether to laugh yourself or cry or sink into your chair or cover your eyes in fear - it is a hypnotising performance and encompasses everything great director, writer and producer Peele does with this film.
So many more individual elements add to the success of Get Out; the excellent score and phenomenal soundtrack which accentuates that comedic element further, with the opening scene contrapuntally underscored by 'Run Rabbit Run' (despite its reputation as trashy television, this is the one element absolutely mastered by Fox's Scream Queens horror-comedy anthology series) masterfully, as well as the reprisal of a famous musical's defining track; intermittent bursts of horror and/or gore that are never overly excessive and infrequent enough to prevent turning less-sensitised viewers off completely; a genuine, startling unpredictability - even if/when you clock a few of the twists, you can never lay claim as to where this film is heading in the long-run. Some people may have find issues with the fact that the film chickens out of saying anything lasting in the end, dismissing one of its major plot strands with an unexplained resolution that niggles just slightly. Perhaps the most major flaw of this film though is its spoiler-filled trailer; not only does it suggest an end-project not nearly as terrific as its outcome, but it's stuffed full with spoilers that dampens the thrill of witnessing it all unfold. Thankfully the third act is left unrevealed but you get too much of a sense of what to expect from the beginning two acts, causing it to somewhat lose the element of surprise. It's exactly the opposite of what Suicide Squad (sensational marketing, dreadful final product) and Passengers (hid one of the early major twists, completely changing the notion you approach the film with) did, implying that Hollywood still has a long way to go in balancing its trailers and marketing to expectations. Basically, the more blind you go into this film, the better for your enjoyment and surprise.
Get Out is an effective, creepy and calculated social commentary that is every bit as biting and sharp as you would hope, thanks to a confidence from first-time director, writer and producer Jordan Peele. It's infusion of horror and comedy under the same roof is notably unsettling, with a heady mix of politics, humour and fun. It's unbelievably smart and subversive, twisted and slick. One fear of mine heading into this film, almost four weeks after it landed in the US, is that it wouldn't connect with UK audiences as it did with our friends over the pond - but after sitting in a screening with the most enthused audience for a good while, all my qualms were squashed and I am convinced this will be an equally large hit here as well as abroad, even if some of the themes and characters are not as immediately recognisable. Get Out is a fine, fine film that deserves it heralding as a contemporary horror classic.
Summary: Get Out is a razor-sharp social satire that is every bit as thrilling and shocking as it is hilarious and creepy. Balancing out two contradictory genres is a difficult feat, yet first-time director Jordan Peele pretty much masters it on first attempt. The contemporary horror classic of our age is here.
Highlight: "You know I can't do that babe"