Get Out exploits horror tropes to tell an original story

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut balances mystery, humour and horror

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Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key have put some serious man hours into their comedy careers over the past decade. Following the success of sketch show Key and Peele on Comedy Central the duo became highly in demand. They found guest acting roles in the likes of Bob’s Burgers, Rick and Morty and even the TV adaptation of Fargo. Key has since focused on his acting career while Jordan Peele, on the other hand, has concentrated more on behind the scenes roles. He has collected more writing credits, including the pair’s 2016 buddy comedy Keanu, a pretty decent venture that served mainly as a platform for the two to put their fantastic chemistry on screen.

Jordan Peele does, therefore have writing experience for feature films, what he did not have before making Get Out, however, is directing experience. And what comes from Get Out is some pretty stellar directing. The film’s plot is best left discovered for yourself, essentially it is the story of a black man meeting his white girlfriend’s rich parents at a family get together in the countryside. Chris Washington has reservations about he will be treated over the weekend, he is played by Daniel Kaluuya, who might be recognised from UK TV roles like Black Mirror or Psychoville.

The plot moves forward with almost no diversions or subplots, there is a central premise and mystery in the film and the script serves solely to explore that. It is a strength of the horror genre that it can afford this tunnel vision like approach to filmmaking, it makes for pleasant, to the point viewing.

Get Out has undercurrents of real life racism but they are so well melded with the detached unreal racism on the screen that it never feels too heavy handed. True, most dialogue of the film is, to an extent, open to interpretation and serving another purpose but it benefits greatly working as a story first and foremost. It follows story beats, action cues, Chekhov’s guns and plot twists; it is not merely a vehicle for racial discourse and could be enjoyed in a social vacuum. It does however add another layer of enjoyment to the film to look at it through the eye of a first-time black director with an interest in these issues.

Yet Get Out impresses with its pacing, scenes are constructed in such a concise way, to create tension and tell the story through a great mix of visuals and sound design. The first scene of Chris and therapist Missy being a particularly strong example of this. The film eases the viewers into what it calls ‘a heightened sense of suggestibility’ becoming almost hypnotic with its ebb and flow.

Like with many horror films it takes place in few locations but manages to only feel claustrophobic when it needs to be. The small cast of speaking characters are given sufficient screen time to establish themselves and the waves of extras are effectively defined by one catchall description from Milly early on in the film “it’s a very white crowd.”

The film suffers at some points from overexplaining itself and some might think that it goes a bit too far into its own ridiculousness but I thought it appropriate considering the satirical element. Certain scenes featuring the comedic relief (LilRel Howery) can seem out of place but these are cancelled out by the charisma of his performance; these are all small nit-picks to what is a highly competent, greatly crafted flick. While I do understand the need for the budget to come from somewhere in such a small film, the level of Windows product placement is slightly off putting, shots linger on Lumia screens or bing searches a little too long that it did distract for a while.

However, I am looking for criticisms in the film because there really aren’t many to make, the film is a fantastically crafted, amusing journey into a well realised world with an interesting mythology. It takes its horror cues from its visuals, its outsider status and from a surreal warped view of humanity best likened to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Like last week’s review The VVitch, it avoids cheap tricks of most other Blumhouse pictures in favour of a more cerebral horror.

Recommendation

The film is a tight package, tied up with a neat little bow, it tells a small-scale story that hints at larger implications, it ends when it is done with the premise and resolves all possible loose ends. It is a pleasure to watch, prolonged stretches of tension and mystery are broken up with lightly comedic dialogue and a satirical remove that keeps everything light and breezy despite the subject matter.

 

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