21 March 2017

Get Out review

It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but the best horror films aren't necessarily the scariest. Horror as a genre works best when it's married to the fears of its audience in a much broader sense, and for that reason the best horror films tend to be those tuned into the zeitgeist of the time, those willing to be about something in a way that a lot of modern horror rarely is. Whether it be the anti-consumerism of Dawn of the Dead, the red scare of Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the technophobia of Black Mirror, social commentary and horror have always made for a great pairing - it's little surprise then that Get Out is no exception, commenting on race and culture in modern America and establishing itself as an instant classic in the process.

We follow Chris Washington as he and his girlfriend, Rose Armitage, travel to her family home for the weekend in order for him to meet her parents for the first time. Rose has never had a black boyfriend before, and the fact that she hasn't yet told her parents about Chris being black has him concerned about their reaction. Fortunately for him, Rose's parents are liberal and tolerant to a fault, but that doesn't stop Chris from feeling uncomfortable and out of place - a feeling that only grows when he starts to notice the strange behaviour of the Armitage's black servants, and the eagerness of Rose's mother to place him under hypnosis and cure his smoking addiction.

It's the first film from writer/director Jordan Peele, but you wouldn't know that from watching it. Get Out has to be one of the most assured, capable directorial debuts we've seen in some time, incredibly well-crafted both technically and textually in a way that you rarely see from first time directors. It's clear that Peele had a lot that he wanted to say with Get Out, and the result is a film that feels as if it sprung fully-formed from his brain onto the screen - it's as singular a vision as you are likely to see, a work that feels so complete and cohesive that it's hard to imagine it ever existing in any other state.

It would be easy to put that down to how well-written Get Out is - there isn't an ounce of fat to be found here, every scene serving a distinct, important purpose and adding to the film overall - but Peele's talent behind the camera can't be ignored either. His control of tone is quite frankly masterful, allowing him to transition from pure comedy (make no mistake, Get Out is very, very funny at times) to unbearable tension in the time it takes to hang up a phone, and the social awkwardness that he imbues the early scenes between Chris and Rose's parents with is palpable to the point of being actively uncomfortable to watch. Even if Get Out were just another horror film, the skill with which it's made would establish Jordan Peele as a film-maker very much worth keeping an eye on.

But it's not just another horror film, and that aforementioned social commentary is what makes Get Out something truly special. To be clear, I'm not sure exactly how well Get Out will translate to British audiences - our own issues surrounding race are radically different to those in the USA, after all - but anyone with even a cursory knowledge of modern racial politics in the USA should be able to pick up what Get Out is throwing down. It's an indictment of race as a fashion accessory, an examination of how Western society fetishises and appropriates black culture for its own purposes, a mocking look at those who are more interested in appearing progressive than they are actually being progressive - hell, if Get Out existed as a film in the world of Get Out, you can be sure that the antagonists would be itching to tell Chris about how much they enjoyed it. Get Out is a film that could only be made by a black film-maker, proving yet again how vital a wide range of diverse voices is to the success of the industry at large.

Add to all that the truly brilliant performances given by the entire cast and the wicked sense of subversion present throughout, and Get Out is quite simply a must-see film, melding effective horror with timely satire with a great sense of humour with an incredible sense of craft to create something that's sure to leave a lasting impression. I referred to Get Out as an instant classic earlier on in this review, a tired phrase that's thrown around maybe just a little too often - but Get Out earns that level of acclaim, and I can't wait to see what Jordan Peele does next.

5 stars

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