Get Out (2017)
You know we are in a post-Oscars movie slump when a satire horror like Get Out (2017) can generate global praise for bravely cutting new ground in film. The truth is: it does not. What it does is satirise the political correctness of a white majority that expresses racial tolerance but harbours malice for those who are different. Set aside that message and you are left with a well-paced, well-acted but predictable horror film that preys on white guilt and coloured fear.
The storyline is clear-cut and entirely consistent with the standard tropes of zombie-like horrors. Cool black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his gorgeous wide-smiling girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) have been dating seriously for a few months when Rose arranges a weekend to meet the parents. She insists that it is not worth mentioning that Chris is a black dude as her neurosurgeon father Dean and psychiatric hypnotherapist mother Missy are so liberally non-racist that “they would have voted for a third Obama term”. Driving onto the sprawling grounds of her parent’s home Chris notices a black gardener with a weird smile who stares vacantly. The camera cuts to Chris’s face and we know immediately what he is thinking. After an effusively over-friendly greeting by the parents at the front doorstep, Chris sees a black housemaid with the same weirdly vacant stare. After an awkwardly polite dinner where Chris is subjected to the usual new-boyfriend interrogation, Missy tricks him into being placed in a hypnotic state that renders him controllable by the tinkling of a spoon in a teacup. From here on, the story shows Chris increasingly entrapped by the family until he realises his life is in danger and that he must ‘get out’.
From the minute that Chris sees the look on the gardener’s face most of the script is laid bare. If that does not sufficiently telegraph the narrative arc that lies ahead, the dinner with the parents make the trap and its dangers obvious. The story pivots on the plausibility of a tinkling teacup making Chris comatose and the duplicity of his girlfriend as the collector of fine black human specimens for neuro-transplant purposes. But of course, in the horror genre there are no boundaries for plausibility and no limits to the gory ways of ending someone’s life. While the plot’s weirdness requires suspension of disbelief, the casting and acting is excellent and delivers entertainment value for horror audience’s money. Although words like original do not suit this film, it is tightly directed and holds enough twisted surprises to keep viewers engaged as it cruises to its entertainingly blood-filled climax.
Some of the over-hyped publicity surrounding this film dwells more on its racial message than its merits as a horror film. Indeed, some are even calling it a landmark in socially progressive film. For this to pass any plausibility test, we must be prepared to imagine that the most vocal middle-class supporters of racial equality in contemporary society are most likely the ones that, subliminally at least, harbour the most evil intentions towards coloured minorities. This would be a regressive exploitation of a complex social issue that, in this writer’s view, is not what this film is about. It’s just an entertaining horror spoof mixed with clever racial satire that is filling cinemas while we wait for the next round of Oscar nominated movies.
Director: Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Katherine Keener, Bradley Whitford