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Get Out is a darkly satirical horror film about racism that has become a cultural phenomenon in the United States. The film tells a story of a young black man who discovers the ultimate horror behind the smiling faces of a liberal, white suburban family.
“Do they know I am black?” is a question Chris (played by little known, but versatile British actor Daniel Kaluuya) asks his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) as he packs his bags for the weekend with her family. “Should they?” she replies, assuring Chris that her neurosurgeon father would have voted for Barak Obama for a third term if he could.
When they arrive at the Armitage estate, one senses that the genteel façade hides something rather sinister. Chris receives an incredibly warm reception from the patriarch, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and the firm, yet loving mother, Missy (a superbly nuanced performance from Catherine Keener).
Dean takes Chris on a tour of the house and the grounds. “I hate the way it looks,” he blushes. “White family, black servants. Total cliché,” he continues after Chris meets the grounds man Walter (Marcus Henderson) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel). Both are wearing broad smiles behind their blank faces. Ira Levin’s satirical thriller ‘The Stepford Wives’ is immediately conjured up.
This is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut of his sharply written screenplay. He opens the film with a recognizable horror film framework; use of darkness and stillness. A black man is walking through the empty streets of a suburb when a car abruptly pulls up and starts to follow him. Unsettled by this, he anxiously starts to look for a way out. This unsettles the mood and the scene grows dissonantly disturbing.
This is a social thriller where the viewer is allowed a fascination mixed with apprehension and anticipation. Peele superbly delivers sustained tension and surprise. Relief is offered by real life asserting itself repeatedly. He reminds us, “our monsters are at times as familiar as the neighborhood watch. One person’s fiction, after all, is another’s true-life horror story.”
You soon realize that racism is ultimately the most terrifying of the monsters. An annual soiree on the estate sees Chris being prodded and probed, while the guests offer: “I do know Tiger”; and “Fair skin has been in favour for years, but now the pendulum has swung back – black is in fashion.” All this while, Chris, who has spend all of his life putting the white world at ease, cannot recognize the threat that is coming for him.
‘Get Out’ is exhilaratingly smart and scary. It goes beneath the veneer of modern day liberalism and finds grisly servitude and exploitation.