Get Out is a clever, creepy horror film that is also a witty satire on racism. African-American writer-director, Jordan Peele, has updated Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), by way of The Stepford Wives (1975) and Meet the Parents (2000) to create a box-fresh modern classic. Peele’s attention to psychological and photographic detail, together with understated performances and a scarily effective score elevate Get Out far above your average gore-fest. After watching this film the tinkle of a teaspoon in a teacup will never sound quite the same again.
We open on a dark suburban street straight out of Halloween, where a young black man is trying to find Ed Wood Way, confessing to a friend on his mobile that he ‘feels like a sore thumb out here.’ A white sports car draws up alongside him and we hear the jaunty old song ‘Run Rabbit Run’ on the radio as the man is knocked out and bundled into its boot.
Cut to the trendy pad of young photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), packing in readiness for a trip to meet his white girlfriend’s parents. ‘Do they know I’m black?’ he asks Rose (Allison Williams). She reassures him that her dad ‘would have voted for Obama a third time’. But Chris’s anxiety increases after a troubled journey to the family estate in Alabama, as he is introduced to Rose’s overbearing liberal father, her hypnotherapist mother (‘you smoke, Chris? That’s a nasty habit), and her unhinged brother, who is itching for a play-fight (‘with your frame and genetic make-up, you could be a beast!’).
The monied elderly guests at the weekend party stare at Chris with a unabashed fascination, blatantly showing their racist attitudes: a fan of Tiger Woods wants to see his golf swing; a lascivious woman asks Rose ‘is it true? Is it better?’
But it is the Armitage family’s black servants that disturb Chris the most. Maid Georgina behaves like a robot, while gardener Walter is hostile. They both use old-fashioned language (‘tittle-tattle’, rather than ‘snitch’), as does the only other black guest, who appears to be the young man from the film’s prologue, now strangely ‘whitey-fied.’ Chris takes a photo of him, provoking an impassioned ‘Get out!’
What is going on here? Chris reports back to his cop buddy Rod (LilRel Howery, providing much of the comedy here) with his suspicions. He would dearly like to get the hell out, but things take a turn for the weird as Chris suspects he has been hypnotised by Mrs Armitage and we are introduced to ‘the sunken place’, ‘the coagula’ and a sinister game of garden party bingo.
At the sane centre of it all Daniel Kaluuya is a sturdy, assured Every(black)man, reflecting our puzzled reactions to events, then re-living Chris’s past trauma, adding psychological depth to his character. Like his photographs, he goes from melancholy to brutal. Allison Williams also excels as Rose, outraged on her boyfriend’s behalf at her family’s racism. They make a believable, playful couple.
Get Out has all the jumps, gore and thrills you would expect from a modern horror film, elevated by composer Michael Abels’ spooky score. He mostly uses plucked harp notes to generate unease and discord, switching to shrieking aural punctuation during scary or violent scenes, a la Bernard Herrmann’s masterful stabbing strings in Psycho.