A young black man walks along the sidewalk late at night through small town suburbia. The houses are all relatively nice and close together. He is alone, at least initially. A car trails behind him very slowly, clearly following him. He is immediately nervous, as is the audience. We’ve seen the news, we know what could happen. He turns to confront his follower and the telltale rag is forced into his face. A few moments later, he’s being dragged to the trunk of the car.
The opening scene of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, feels oddly familiar, even beyond current events. Its immediately reminiscent of the opening scene of It Follows, a single tracking shot following the erratic movements of someone frightened for their life.
The key difference is that this time we know why he’s scared.
Just in time, Peele reminds us that this film takes place right now, and the Childish Gambino track “Redbone” transitions us to our protagonist.
Daniel Kaluuya (Black Mirror: Fifteen Million Merits) and Allison Williams (Girls) are happy as can be, and packing to meet her parents. They don’t know she’s dating a black guy. You saw the trailers (or more hopefully, the film), you know this.
I sure hope you saw the film, because THERE WILL DEFINITELY BE SPOILERS AHEAD.
The car ride is a great subtle setup for the rest of the film. The deer encounter explains right away that you can’t ever let your guard down, or else the film will make you pay for that. The encounter with the police officer reaffirms the position that film takes, paranoid and untrusting. The show of defense (or offense, as it reads initially) that Williams brings works on several levels that aren’t revealed until much later on. Put those seatbelts back on, it’s time to meet the parents.
The father, Bradley Whitford, comes off as a very showy ally, openly claiming that he would’ve voted for Obama’s third term if he could and mentioning how his father once lost a race to Jesse Owens. The mother, Catherine Keener, is a bit more reserved, perhaps free-spirited, and is also into hypnotism. Kaluuya’s Chris remains on edge.
Can we just jump right into the good stuff? Keener hypnotises Chris against his will with the use of a teacup, forcing him into what is called “The Sunken Place”, where he can still see everything happening around him without a single sense of physical control. This scenario on its own is enough to terrify any individual, especially those familiar with sleep paralysis. The even bigger reveal is that this hypnosis is only beginning; the family has been kidnapping young, strong, black men and using them as shells to transplant the brains of their old white friends and family.
They get to live out their life in a new body while the original host remains in The Sunken Place, only coming to the surface in brief moments, spurned on by a camera flash or things of that nature.
Jordan Peele’s writing is remarkably mature. This isn’t to say that his sketch comedy has been immature, but no one expects the jump from comedy to horror to be smooth.
The reason this film works so well is because Peele finally brings horror back to its roots of actually being about something. Horror used to be all about subtext. Videodrome questions the line between television and real life. They Live is a warning that the upper class may be running every single thing. Alien shows how uncaring corporations treat the lower class workers. Get Out is very clearly following in their path.
For anyone who has watched Black Mirror, this is further proof that Daniel Kaluuya deserves to be a star. Allison Williams, in her first major film, essentially plays two characters extremely well. Whitford and Keener add just enough gravitas and experience without stealing the show. Stand-up comedian Lil Rel Howery gets that position, serving as both the audience surrogate, always questioning the decision making process of characters, and also as the one true source of levity in this tense and dread-filled film.
Jordan Peele has said in interviews that he has scripts for at least four other “social thrillers” in various stages of pre-production. With a debut as strong as Get Out, one of the best directorial debuts in recent memory, he will absolutely blow us all away before we know it.
Get Out: 8/10