A scarily relevant horror of racial politics which is almost derailed by misjudged comic relief.
Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford
Runtime: 104 mins
Release date: 17 March 2017
Perhaps the biggest surprise Get Out has to offer is that it has taken so long for a film like this to be made. Even in its 70s heyday, the blaxploitation genre never tackled anything this bitingly, bloodily satirical. Then again, now would seem the perfect time for Get Out. Its release follows in the wake of a fleet of black-centric films, from The Birth of a Nation through Hidden Figures to Moonlight; and that’s not to mention the increasing importance racial politics are playing in popular culture. Oh, and it’s also a funny, if somewhat flawed, horror film.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is Rose’s (Allison Williams) first black boyfriend, a fact that makes their upcoming visit to her parents’ house a somewhat daunting prospect. Rose assures Chris that it’ll be fine: her parents will love him; they’re definitely not racist; her father (Bradley Whitford) would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have. When they arrive, however, Chris becomes convinced something is off. Rose’s mother (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist who specialises in hypnotic therapy, and seems a little too keen to use her methods to help Chris quit smoking. More disturbing than that, though, is the behaviour of their black groundskeeper and housemaid, whose cheerfulness and deference look suspiciously forced.
I won’t go any further than that in describing the plot. Half the appeal of this kind of horror-mystery is witnessing the parade of clues, red herrings and reveals for yourself. Writer/director Jordan Peele has a knack for this type of plotting, leading us down blind alleys then ambushing us with some new question. When the film tips its hand, it speeds into a crazily entertaining finale, which unfortunately threatens to overshadow its satirical point. Also unfortunate is a sideplot featuring Chris’ airport guard friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery). His scenes are played for laughs, and certainly gets them, but they threaten to derail the rest of the film’s subtler tone.
It’s a shame, because a tighter, more focused script could have turned Get Out into a satirical classic, The Stepford Wives for 21st century racial politics. The film uses the tropes and clichés of the horror genre to examine the often harmful lengths that white liberals will go to “help” black people assimilate into white culture. Perhaps Rod’s scenes are Peele’s way of suggesting that that is unnecessary, that black people already have their own cultures and they can exist alongside white cultures quite happily. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into what are merely comic relief scenes.
Whatever the case may be, Get Out narrowly misses out on greatness. Rod’s scenes need not have been excised entirely, just tweaked to better fit with the rest of the film. The climax, too, could have been changed to offer, if not an answer to the problems the film posits, at least some sort of thematic closure. As it stands, though, Get Out is still a scarily relevant good time.