Touted as a horror, this is really a suspenseful thriller that keeps you guessing right up until the satisfyingly violent ending. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is getting ready to visit the parents of his new girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) for the first time. Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), Rose assures him, will be totally cool that he is black as her Dad ‘would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could’ and they are ‘definitely not racist’.
Arriving at their grand and isolated house, he sees that this wealthy white family have two black servants – groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) – although he is reassured that they are kept on out of friendship and gratitude for their help with Dean’s elderly parents, not because of racial stereotypes. Chris phones his friend at home, Rod (LilRel Howery), to joke about it and to try and allay his unease at being somewhere so quintessentially white. Very, very slowly, things get weird.
Director Jordan Peele does a great job of setting the scene. Everything is so normal but right from the start of the film he shows us that all is not right. The opening scene, of a black man nervously walking at night through an affluent neighbourhood, juxtaposes the niceness of the location and the incidental music with the menace of what unfolds. For Chris at Rose’s family home, it is the veneer of well-meaning gentility that is so obviously rooted in white privilege that rings alarm bells for him. His instinct is to get out but, as we see in the scene with the traffic cop, he has a learned survival strategy to keep his head down and not rock the boat when he is vulnerable in a white world.
Thrillers and horrors are often let down by the final reveal where we and the characters are made aware of the nature of the threat. It’s hard to match the power of an unseen and unknown threat and Get Out is no different, although there is a cleverness to its plot. There is a bit of silliness and cliche that reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s line about James Bond films – “Ah, Mr. Bond, welcome, come in. Let me show you my entire evil plan and then put you in a death machine that doesn’t work.” I found it easy to forgive, though, mainly because of the likeability and believability of Chris’s character that has you barracking for him right until the end.
What sets this film apart from others of its genre, for me, is how well it comments on and satirises racism without alienating a white audience. We see it in Chris’s discomfort and Rose’s well-meaning ignorance and in the comments of the guests at the garden party who voice their unconscious bias. We see it in the silencing of black voices. That the story descends into something that sits comfortably in the realms of fantasy doesn’t detract from its social bite.
Currently in cinemas
Bechdel test – fail