Actor, Comedian, Screen Writer and now Film Director, "Get Out" is Jordan Peele's debut cinematic feature. And what a first film it is too!
"This is Eyes Wide Shut shit!"
Ten hours have passed since I left the darkness of my local picture house after seeing this edgy psychological horror from Jordan Peele and it hasn't been far from my thoughts in the intervening time between leaving the cinema and commencing this blog. To write and direct such a fresh take in the psychological/horror genre, and in your debut film to boot, is an incredible achievement from Peele and one hopes that this may serve as a template for a resurgence in such a cliched ridden form of shock/horror cinema. From the moment our two main protagonists reached their weekend destination I had a constant feeling of dread and unease, as well as a creeping anxiety and wish to look away from the screen. The beauty of which being the slow layering of the outward antipathy but through smiling eyes and welcoming embraces, awkward question or sideways glance, rather than the standard horror tropes of modern films for loud scares and ghostly apparitions. For they are here too, both the scares and the ghosts, but of the human kind, still living and breathing but taking on a rather different guise and character. But where this film excels is in it's darkly comedic interludes and backed by so many well crafted and rounded characters whilst also shining a light on the incredibly difficult subject of racism and tackling it head on. Again, steering clear of the old and worn stereotypes of racists only being ill educated, lower classed yobs, here they are well at heeled, middle aged and middle class, and they all have a penchant for a rather distasteful and alternative game of "Bingo".
Get Out excels by dragging you into the narrative from the very first frame as an innocent black man is kidnapped walking along a quiet residential street, juxtaposed with the quaintly old fashioned Flanagan and Allen ditty "Run Rabbit Run" and a disturbing metaphor for the film is quickly established. The musical choices (as well as Michael Abels overall tension inducing score) brilliantly accompanies the film, with "Redbone" by Donald Glover used when introducing our main character "Chris Washington" (Daniel Kaluuya) and "I've Had The Time of my Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes to darkly comedic effect as the film approaches it's denouement. Chris Washington is an affluent and happy professional photographer who is five months into a blissful relationship with girlfriend "Rose Armitage" (Allison Williams). There is no colour bar between the two young lovers, however they are travelling to Rose's parents for the weekend for the first time as a couple and Chris cannot help but awkwardly ask "Do they know I'm black?". Rose waves away the question with a laugh but as the ugly spectre of racism rears its head soon in the film and she firmly reassures her beau "Well, I'm not gonna let anyone fuck with my man". As they reach Rose's parents the subtle layers, looks, a single word or awkward phrase begin to raise the tension in the household and the opulent surroundings of the home of "Missy Armitage" (Catherine Keener) and "Dean Armitage" (Bradley Whitford). Whereas Dean is excitable and slightly unhinged, Missy is more reserved and watchful and as we soon discover, a professional psychiatrist. Before the weekend truly begins, Rose's brother "Jeremy Armitage" (Caleb Landry Jones) arrives, and soon truly seals the building portents that things aren't quite as calm and serene as they appear to be in this family reunion with an off kilter performance, and indeed dress style, reminiscent of Brad Pitt's brilliantly erratic character Jeffrey Goines in the Terry Gilliam directed 12 Monkeys. It may not be deliberate, hinted at or even contemplated, but Jones' portrayal of Jeremy is perfectly, and awkwardly, unhinged, reminding me so much of Pitt's turn in 12 Monkeys.
So what could possibly go awry for Chris under such welcoming circumstances?! Hypnotised by Missy and thrown into the maelstrom of a gentrified and predominantly all white weekend party, Chris seeks solace in the embrace of girlfriend Rose and that of the black servants employed by The Armitages, however with their far off stares, robotic like movements and permanently fixed smiles all is clearly not well and Chris has but one last anchor on which to fall, his friend "Rod Williams" (Lil Rel Howery). Howery's performance brings much comedic lightness and relief and it is too him that the majority of the film's best lines fall, from his allusion to the Kubrick movie Eyes Wide Shut (tag line above), references to sex slaves, multi murderer Jeffrey Dahmer or his simple refrain of "Man, I told you not to go in that house!" Chris clearly shouldn't have!
With the claustrophobia, tension and sense of dread constantly building, Get Out immediately reminded me of Kevin Smith's magnificent, and still underrated, 2011 gem Red State. For religious zealotry in Red State, read white privilege and repellent racism here. Get Out is a brilliantly original horror while overtly highlighting the awkward racist undertones of being a minority in a society still apt to exploit those weakest amongst you whilst championing the merits of others. Add to this the magnificent performances of Kaluuya, Howery, Keener and Landry Jones and you have a brilliantly unexpected debut film from Jordan Peele.