By David Napolitano
What is fear? Is it an uncomfortable danger of something lurking in the dark or a lingering thought stemming from an innermost insecurity?
From the mind of comedian Jordan Peele, through his haunting and sharp-witted writing and directorial debut, “Get Out” suggests fear as both these ideas in the form of a black man meeting his white girlfriend’s parents.
Her parents may end up being impressed, disappointed or even dumbfounded to find out that the boyfriend is not who they thought he would be.
Or was he?
This is a horror-thriller that feels as though it was made by bona fide film lovers. It recalls the age-old rule of tension from the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, who previously insisted to “tell the audience there’s a bomb underneath the table and it will go off in five minutes.”
In true Hitchcock style, even Michael Abel’s score echoes the ghoulish and leery strings of his iconic collaborator, the late film composer Bernard Herrmann.
In “Get Out’s” “five minutes,” or in this case, the film’s runtime of 105 minutes, the family gets to know the new boyfriend, the family hosts a pleasant party with relatives and a foreboding past unfolds from within the seemingly happy-go-lucky estate.
Yet, not all is doom and terror in the story. Peele also expresses a sly sense of humor against the exhausted cliche of the black guy being the first to die in countless horror films.
Peele’s “Get Out” turns the typical black victim of murder into an intelligent, quick, yet recognizably human character who hardly takes anything at face value.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) live in an apartment together as a likable and good-hearted interracial couple ready to take their relationship to the next level ” meeting the girlfriend’s parents.
Chris shares his reservations about meeting Rose’s family because, unbeknownst to her parents, Chris is a black man.
Rose insists that he should not worry because her father would have voted for Obama for POTUS if he ran for a third term. Chris goes along with the plan and they drive out to the rural area where the family lives.
Rose’s parents, Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford), along with Rose’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), embrace Chris with open arms into their seemingly quaint abode, along with the many friendly and accommodating workers at the estate who, although black, talk and act like they are completely different people.
This slowly begins to unsettle Chris, and even his friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery), has his share of suspicions about the ulterior motives of the family.
What could possibly go wrong? More than anyone could imagine.
What follows in “Get Out” is one stirring sequence of suspense after another, relieved by humorous quips from select characters and a breathtaking third act that brings the film entirely full circle.
It is remarkable to discover that Peele not only trusts the audience to put the pieces of this mystery together, but to also use familiar tricks to introduce his own unique style to today’s state of the horror genre.
One of those tricks is updating the classic Hitchcockian theme of a sinister underbelly brewing beneath a normal and unremarkable surface.
Peele obviously shows his affection for this playful fa_Òå¤ade as he brings racial identity to the forefront during the family get-together gone horribly wrong. The film cleverly asks the question of how much does race play as a factor in shaping a person’s identity?
The film’s approach to camera techniques is a praise that can hardly be said in today’s horror films.
The long takes and extreme close-ups intrusively suffocate the frame to toy with the sanity of the hero while also suggesting that everything just may be too cozy to be true.
The performances in the film are especially effective. While actors like Kaluuya, Williams, Keener and Whitford embrace the film’s surreal and bizarre reality, Howrey does an excellent job as the comic relief character that, along with Chris, addresses the awkwardness of being the sole black man in the room.
“Get Out” is the kind of film that remembers the power of horror along with introducing different methods to innovate and subvert the conventions of the genre.
The film succeeds with unexpected comedy, wily social commentary and an atmospheric flavor of tension to make up an experience that promises an aspiring and hopeful future for Peele as a director.
Unlike any other horror film made in decades, “Get Out” discovers that the scariest creatures are not monsters, serial killers, or zombies but are actually a person’s innermost paranoias and fears.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
‘Get Out’ movie poster
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