Get Out

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Release date: 17th March 2017/Watch the trailer here

Get Out may be the first foray into horror for writer and director Jordan Peele (best known as one half of the comedy duo Key and Peele) – but it is hopefully also the first of many more to come, because with Get Out Peele has created one of the best horror films in recent memory.

It helps that Peele is well aware that the terrors of reality can sometimes be far scarier than ghosts or demonic entities. Get Out sees Chris (up-and-coming British actor Daniel Kaluuya), a young black man, meeting the parents of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) for the first time at their lavish family estate. Rose immediately brushes off Chris’ concerns when he asks whether her parents know that he’s black (they would have voted for Obama a third time if it was possible!), but it doesn’t take long before increasingly strange things start to happen. First, there’s Rose’s psychiatrist mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), who’s insistent on hypnotising Chris to help him quit smoking, and then there’s the bizarre behaviour of the black staff, Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel), who work at the estate – although Rose’s father Dean (Bradley Whitford) is quick to apologise to Chris for the way a wealthy white family with black staff looks.

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This is a different kind of racism than we’re accustomed to seeing in films. In many respects, the subtle form that the racism in Get Out initially takes is much more uncomfortable for the audience than the more blatant varieties that are easier to distant ourselves from – instead of people who voted for Obama and love Tiger Woods and like to remind every black person that they meet about these things to prove that of course they’re not racist. It’s an incredibly clever move from Peele, turning a very real and relevant problem into a horror movie concept, and conversations that begin as almost painfully awkward quickly take a sinister turn.

As is par for the course, the horror becomes slightly less horrifying once the mystery has been uncovered, but Peele has smartly succeeded in avoiding enough genre tropes to ensure that a reveal that could have been ridiculous if handled incorrectly still manages to be thoroughly chilling. In steering clear of clichés, Peele has also treated his audience with respect: Chris is a refreshingly intelligent protagonist, not making any of the dreaded stupid decisions that we’ve come to expect from our horror movie so-called heroes.

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Also effective is Peele’s decision to merge his horror with sharp satire, occasional moments of levity (mainly from Lil Rel Howery as Chris’ scene-stealing TSA friend Rod) acting as a reminder of Peele’s comedy roots. The laughs never detract from the oppressive paranoia that Peele has successfully crafted, however, with each awkward interaction and unsettlingly strange encounter building up an intense and unrelenting atmosphere of unease. Not one scene in Get Out is filler; every single line of dialogue acting as a clue towards solving the mystery (making this the kind of film that’s just as much fun to dissect afterwards as it is to actually watch), and as a result, Peele’s directorial debut is one of the smartest and most satisfying horror films we’ve seen in years.

★★

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