2017. Directed by Jordan Peele.
Horror is a genre that can be used to devastating, socially and culturally relevant effect when wielded by the right provocateur. Comic mastermind, Jordan Peele’s Get Out is 2017’s first genuine surprise, a hypnotic thriller that masquerades as a commentary on race that is built upon a labyrinth of stereotypes and best intentions. What begins as an extremely well designed horror comedy transforms into a surreal manifesto on violent domination.
Peele’s malicious script is packed with uncomfortable polite discourse that highlights the essence of privileged sensitivity while laying an intricate trail of dominoes throughout the film’s single upscale location. Clues abound, from robotic household staff, a cringe worthy therapy session, and the insidious placement of trophies throughout the familial home at the center of the mystery. The humor is tied to the protagonist’s friend back home, using Peele’s well known comedic genius to bring levity to the bizarre. Thankfully, these moments are sprinkled throughout a genuinely terrifying fever dream. Dinner party participants simultaneously stop speaking, a groundskeeper runs circles around the house in the moonlight, and the family’s harmless maid is a smiling harbinger of madness, all of which combine to create a poisoned key that unlocks the film’s corrupted core in the thrilling final act.
Toby Oliver’s cinematography is the film’s best surprise. Innocuous interiors are delicately framed, using extreme closeups to ensure that the facade remains in focus. Moonlight is used to counteract the false serenity of the environs, bathing the ensemble in pale neon blue to heighten the psychic underpinnings. Michael Abels’s score capitalizes on the up front premise, using terse notes to supplement the uncanny behaviors of the “staff”. Seeing the trailer is enough to fool you into thinking you know, but the outstanding cast latches onto Peele’s words and makes them something more, with Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams doing remarkable work as the skin tone crossed lovers at the center of a horrifying cautionary tale.
This is a layered metaphor that pulls no punches. Violence is the inevitable result of forced captivity and red and blue lights are not always a sign of sanctuary. These truths are subverted to remarkable ends to produce a delirious Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by way of Beyond the Black Rainbow mind bender. Racial discord swan dives into a cesspool of nightmarish implications to carve a bloodstained benchmark for socially aware cinema and the result is a horror film that is respectful with its homages and rebellious with its implications.
In theaters tomorrow, Get Out is a clever youknowwhodunnit. The rules are set early, but it is the players, and Keele’s elastic mastery of the material that takes a simple premise into places best left unexplored, and yet the viewer can’t help but to watch. The final act regrettably ups the violence, undoing the psychological dread, but this is the purposefully natural consequence of the preceding acts, symbolizing both the inherent fears of a black man in a white world and the smartphone dissertations on what those fears symbolize.