Title: Get Out
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Director/Writer: Jordan Peele
Music: Michael Abels
Cinematography: Toby Oliver
Caleb Landry Jones
An unheralded cash cow in its domestic revenue and also a succès d’estime, USA black comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut GET OUT rides on the coattail of the racial powder keg in the current USA soil, conjures up a well-conceived conspiracy theory married with an aroused scenario taking the leaf from the time-tested suburbia genre book, a close cousin is Ira Levin’s THE STEPFORD WIVES, and enlivens its central story with robust horror tropes pulsating in a bracing beat.
Our virile hero is Chris Washington (Kaluuya), a black photographer who is going to meet his white girlfriend Rose Armitage’s (Williams) family for the first time. What Chris encounters is not the hostile racism usually presides within uncouth hillbillies or religious-poisoned happy-clappies, instead, in this close-knit WASP community, what lurks around is something much more sinister and beyond one’s wildest imagination. The overt clue is the aberrant behaviors of the black servants living with the Armitages: the housekeeper Georgina (Gabriel) and groundskeeper Walter (Henderson). At first glance, Peele seems to dangle viewers with a more conventional reference of slavery, but correlating with the film’s unsettling prologue of abducting a black man Andrew Hayworth (Stanfield) in the same neighborhood, a sober mind suggests that we cannot take the situation for granted, certainly, something is wrong with the black people on the lot, they are not themselves, but the voodoo in the mix hits more on the mark of deep-rooted illusion of immortality than the ostensible white supremacy, there is a nuanced overtone even eulogizing black race’s vitality as the perfect human specimen, meanwhile the main trope vouchsafes what lies beneath is the turpitude of extreme selfishness which deprives others of their identity (brain) for one’s own sake, a metaphor of power-abusing from those privileged few, which is part and parcel of the film’s runaway success, viewers cannot help but paralleling it with the current political affairs in the Trump era – life can be a sick joke.
Artistically speaking, Peele rounds up a coherent (albeit improbable) story arc within its suburbia milieu, an estate is quietly ensconced with quaint Americana, a retro luster contradicts the young couple’s modernist urbanity. From that symbolic deer-in-the-headlight accident to the parapsychic hypnosis, to a superbly and literally devised sunken place (evoking the murky other-worldliness in Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN 2013), until the mandatory but still engrossing bailing-out killing spree, GET OUT treads circumspectly through the familiar ground without overdosing in the wantonness of its cock and bull story.
Credits should be fairly given to a capable cast, Daniel Kaluuya makes for a straight-up hero with gaping intensity, and Allison Williams capitalizes in Rose’s about-face veracity to a bone-chilling effect. LilRel Howery as Chris’ best friend, a TSA officer, stands out as the comic foil and a mouthpiece of inappropriate one-liners, and an openly hearty Bradley Whitford, a beguilingly frosty Catherine Keener, and a delirious Caleb Landry Jones, rounds out an unsettling dysfunctional family, last but not the least,Betty Gabriel, arguably leaves the most bizarre impression perfectly in line with the thematic out-of-body creepiness.
For all its hype and buzz, GET OUT benefits greatly from its timing and present-day context, plus a genuinely appealing wheeze of identity-swapping. A miracle-maker borne out of an above-average commodity that no one should begrudge for its success, because it excels as a trenchant social critique in spite of its genre setting, which is dishearteningly wanting in most wide-opening theatrical staples, especially at a dejected time like this.
referential points: Iain Softley’s THE SKELETON KEY (2005, 6.8/10), Frank Oz’s THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004, 4.0/10)