As 2017’s official Surprise Spring Horror Hit, Get Out seemed like an appropriate kick off for this year’s Summer of Horror marathon, and deserved its very own individual review. And at a whopping 99% Rotten Tomatoes score, how could I not see this as soon as possible?
In many ways, Get Out shares a lot of similarity with The Invitation, and I’m a little surprised not to see that comparison being made in the reviews I’ve read. Both mine tension from mystery and a vague sense of hostility in an otherwise mundane social situation. Both spend a majority of their run time letting the audience wonder whether there’s a true threat beyond mere paranoia. And both establish a sense of foreboding with an animal-related car accident in the beginning.
Jordan Peele (of Key And) is the unlikely director behind this surprisingly tight and economical horror film. You’ve probably heard that the horror mainly derives from the black experience of feeling out of place and unwelcome in a mostly white society, even as everyone bends over backwards to try to prove how un-racist they are. In fact, it’s that obvious overcompensation that raises the first suspicions and puts the main character (and the audience) in a cautious mode in the first place. And it is remarkable now uncomfortable things get, and how quickly. From wrongheaded language from the white parents like “my brother” to full-on racist comments about “your genetic makeup”, it’s never been so clear how many different varieties casual racism comes in. If the genre had been drama or even thriller rather than horror, the entire film could have been just about that and still been interesting. But this is a capital-H Horror film, and as such, there’s more going on than you think. As the truth gradually unfurls, I doubt many first time viewers will be able to predict where it ends up.
From a pure directorial standpoint, Get Out also succeeds. Visual references to Halloween (1978) abound, more subtle than, say, It Follows, but clearly intentional. In one scene the camera lingers just behind the shoulder of a figure in the foreground while the oblivious main characters happily chatter in the background. I love stuff like that. Tension is doled out and released at just the right intervals to maximize effectiveness. When the full nature of the situation our characters are trapped in is finally revealed, you won’t be able to help thinking “Oh my GOD…”. It’s quite ghastly. Consider that your tease to go see it. (For the squeamish/horror illiterate – fear not. It’s not that kind of ghastly.)