Friday, February 24, 2017 marked the official US theatrical release of Get Out – the new psychological horror film from Jordan Peele and Blumhouse Productions. Nerd Nation was in attendance for the early press screening the week before its release, courtesy of Universal Pictures, Allied Marketing, and Regal Cinemas. Due to our guest appearance at Con Nooga 2017 this past weekend, this review (written Thursday, February 23) was delayed in its publishing until today.
It might just be impossible to state how much of a surprise Get Out turned out to be. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut and his first footing into more serious subject matter is, in a word; outstanding. Get Out may actually prove to be one of the best psychological horror films of the decade. But it provides something that all the other films in its category simply does not provide; a new perspective. Not necessarily a new perspective of the mind-bending variety, but a social one. Get Out provides what may well be the first high concept psychological horror movie told for a black audience, where it excels is that it tells that story within enough of the accepted tropes that a greater audience can approach it with ease.
Avoiding any details that may lead to spoilers leaves very few left that a look at the trailer won’t provide. The story is best described as the uncomfortable combination of 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate. Young black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) goes with Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) his white girlfriend to go meet with her family out in the affluent suburbs of their city. There he is greeted by her lame, brain surgeon Dad and psychiatrist Mother (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, respectively) and the family’s black servants Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson) whose eerie behavior mixed with their servile role puts both Chris and the audience on edge. The casting is well done across the board, from the over-welcoming party guests (predominantly white and all wealthy, of course) to the Armitage’s son Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) who’s palpable sense of menace and frat-boy sensibilities would be played for laughs in any other film.
That doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t expect any comedic relief for the duration, Peele’s comedy background is served well with Lilrey Howery’s performance as Chris’ best friend Rod Williams, who is left dog-sitting in the city, and the infrequent phone calls between them become both the subject of some of the films tension while providing some much-needed comedic relief.
While all the performances turned in throughout the film are good, Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as Chris Washington truly carries the film. The film places us in Chris’ head and in his role and at no point can you feel truly distanced from his character. With the most difficult and important role in the whole story Kaluuya turns in stellar work here, showing all the nuance that the stress and social awkwardness of his outrageous situation that in a lesser performers hands. He had to be at once vulnerable and reserved, complicated yet accessible enough that for the audience to truly get a look inside his mind. Kaluuya succeeds here capably and hopefully can turn this film to more leading roles in the future.
As far as psychological horrors go, Get Out uses all the familiar tropes, loss of control, questions of identity, and doubt permeate the plot in tangible quantities. But the underpinning theme of racism is inescapable. To that end, Jordan Peele expertly navigates the trickier waters that would have prevented this film from seeing the wide release it enjoys while still confronting it. The film does a phenomenal job of putting the viewer in the head of its protagonist, a perspective rarely seen in Hollywood; getting to see the various shades of race relations in American culture from the point of view of a young black man. There’s little overt finger-pointing and accusations of overt racism, the closest we come to it is a brief confrontation with a police officer in the first half hour, and the jarring opening scene that alludes to the stereotypical “neighborhood watch” aspect of suburban life that has been historically unfriendly to American minorities. It wouldn’t be a horror/thriller without a good twist or reveal, and the ones presented in Get Out are perfect in their service to the central themes, both the psychological and racial themes the film is built upon.
The Bottom Line:
It is entirely conceivable that Get Out will, in due time, be considered one of THE most important films of the decade. Its courageous and deft exploration of the social issues of the day could easily be held up as an insight into the current zeitgeist by historians, if only film historians, at the very least film nerds will be chatting about Get Out for years to come. There is also something that needs to be said about the experience this film provides in the theatre, the impact and fear felt by the audience carries over universally and when viewed by a diverse audience there’s a poignancy that comes with the crowd sharing an experience that may be more familiar to some members then others. While some may feel a temptation to label films as “thinking” or more “emotional” it shouldn’t be too hard to find that the best play with the viewer both cerebrally and emotionally. Get Out provides you with both generously, granting the audience a unique experience through the lens of race relations and threat on identity that is on display. Simply put, the film is excellent, and if this is Jordan Peele’s first outing as a director and filmmaker we should start to pay this man a lot more attention.
Beyond the many, many great things to love about this film that were mentioned in this review, there is also the huge and groundbreaking issue of this being a new, original horror film, with fresh ideas, and an uncharted concept that will make audiences deal with the discomfort and very real issues in a creative and interesting way. And ultimately, that’s what great horror is all about. – 10.0/10
-Scott Anthony Wittie and Dave Harlequin
Staff Writers: Nerd Nation Magazine