One surprising development that I’ve been so happy to see come to fruition in the past few years is the return to independent horror films becoming more prominent. Some of the greatest horror films ever made were independently made, and every mainstream Hollywood horror film made as had some influence drawn from an independent horror film. There is a rise in auteur-driven horror cinema that I find delightful, and one man at the core of that is Jason Blum, who has helped bring some truly original voices to the horror genre, and giving them exposure. The last masterpiece from Blumhouse Productions is Get Out, directed by none other than the comedic genius and soon-to-be icon, Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame).
Get Out has a wonderful premise – Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is a young African-American artist who has a white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), who decides to take her to meet her parents at their remote lakeside home, assuring him that her parents are very open-minded and loving people – and it initally seems that way, with neurosurgeon Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) and his psyciatrist wife Missy (Catherine Keener) initally seeming like good people – that is until they invite a group of friends over for a party, and things take a very sinister turn.
Now if you intend on seeing this film (and I hope you do), then stop reading here, because Get Out has a genuinely shocking twist, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Skip over this next part, because with a plot twist like this film, it is far too good to spoil.
Much like The Stepford Wives, Get Out takes a similar stance of creating a race of compliant “robots”, where wealthy white people quite literally buy black people, and take control of their bodies, either for personal gain, or more often than not just to be in on the fad of being black. As soon as Chris comes to realize this, and also that his girlfriend Rose is just as sinister as her parents, he tries to escape – but its far more difficult than it seems, and leads way to one of the most shockingly terrifying cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.
Now here’s the thing – don’t let the fact that this film was written and directed by Jordan Peele detract from the fact that this is a genuinely scary film. There are many very funny moments, but they are far more satirical and scathingly biting rather than outright hilarious. For the most part, Get Out is a genuinely scary film, and it had me on the edge of my seat throughout. It has a deep creepiness and it embraces the fact that it has one of the most audacious premises horror cinema has ever seen – and I was severly disturbed by many moments in this film, particularly the final act, which made my skin crawl. Don’t go in expecting to see the antic we are used to see with Key & Peele – this isn’t Jordan Peele the comedian, this is Jordan Peele, the writer, director and horror film fanatic – and he means business, there isn’t any doubt about it.
Daniel Kaluuya takes on a very tricky role – what made me so interested in this film was that Peele was apparently inspired by the most influential independent horror film ever made, The Night of the Living Dead, which was one of the few genuine horror films with a black male lead. Kaluuya is incredible as Chris, and the success of this film rests on his shoulders – he is absolutely wonderful, and does an incredible job of playing the normal, conventional guy who finds himself in a seriously terrifying situation. He manages to play both the calm, normal Chris, and the utterly terrified version of the character, maintaining the same charisma throughout the entire film. I hope Kaluuya gets noticed in Get Out, because this is a star-making turn and he’s very good.
Allison Williams is also wonderful, and in her feature film debut, does a wonderful job of playing Rose in both her innocent and demented phases, and the final moments of this film give Williams some wonderful things to do. She is so compelling, and I have always asserted she (alongside Adam Driver) are the best things about the highly divisive show Girls, and while her role in Get Out may be somewhat trivial and one-dimensional, other than going through an enormous character twist, she does show wonderful promise here and now that Girls is ending, here’s hoping that Williams can do some film work that is worthy of her talents.
LaKeith Stanfield has a relatively small role, playing Logan, a very uptight and pedantic, robotic man named Logan who Chris is initially happy to encounter at the party, but only to discover he is no different from the upper-class white people present. It is a small role and I wish we could’ve seen more from Stanfield, who was delightful, funny and very creepy. He does the best with a very small role and he needs to be recognized for it. Lil Rel Howery is the comic relief of this film, and what I thought would be just a simple supporting character used for laughs, Howery actually gives a damn good performance as Rod, the concerned best friend of the main character, and he is perhaps the most compelling character in the film. If Stanfield and Howery don’t get a career boost out of Get Out, then I’m not even sure what they need to do to get noticed, because they’re both excellent here.
There’s not much to say about Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford, two of the most reliable character actors working today. Keener is just remarkable in everything she does and Get Out is not an exception. Simulateonously sweet and terrifying, Keener proves her worth as a solid cinematic presence. Whitford sheds his often vanilla image of a normal, paternal figure to play Dean, who is so hauntingly demented, it left me reeling in shock. His final moments left me in shock. I honestly think the trio of Keener, Whitford and Williams are a contender for most chilling horror film villains in twenty-first century horror cinema (I am leaving out Caleb Landry Jones, who was a pretty useless character who could’ve easily been written out or given a more important role). Its a solid cast, and unlike many horror films, it has performances that matches the concept, which is rare in many similar films.
Get Out is a fascinating film for how it handles its subject matter – it tackles the tricky and sensitive topic of race in such a way that it is shocking and very obvious, but also subtle and very subversive. It goes all the way in making outright social statements. It couldn’t be more obvious what this film was about, and it handles its themes with such gusto. Peele held absolutely nothing back, and honestly if anyone has a problem with the way this film handles its message, they clearly don’t understand how brilliant this film is in executing its message. It is a film like Get Out that is necessary to lure out those who cannot understand satire, and a film like Get Out is just the very definition of ingenious satire.
Go see Get Out. Whoever you are, this isn’t only a film with a truly important message, it is also a damn brilliant film. Jordan Peele shows that he is a genius when it comes to writing something unique and captivating. I found it so deeply amazing on every level, and it may be a contender for one of my favorite films of the year. It is a strange, terrifying little film and one of the most unique and compelling films I’ve seen in a long time. I really do think Peele is here to stay if he is able to make something like this as his debut. It may not be an easy film to watch, but I can’t think of something so audacious and conceptually strong as Get Out, a truly extraordinary film and just something to scare the hell out of you – but is it the film, or the message, that is terrifying?