What is there to say about Get Out that hasn’t already been said? The horror movie that firmly smashed the genre into the critical mainstream (after a few false starts like the awards-overlooked The Babadook and The Witch), Get Out is a revelation of a movie, one of those films that seems as though it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype right up until the point where it does. And, even though every critic has spent most of the past year jerking themselves senseless over Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, I will endeavour to find something new-ish to say about it.
For me, one of the most effective things horror as a genre can tap into is the subversion of the familiar; as I wrote recently about found footage, there’s something about uncomfortable familiarity that sticks with you long past the jump-scares and in-jokes have passed. And it’s that familiarity that Get Out works in it’s favor. It’s one thing to tap into a neighbourhood that looks like yours or friends who act like yours do – that’s surface-level, it’s broad, it’s pretty much the standard by now. But Get Out leans in to the exploration of discomforting, ever-present racial tension in a way that lets it slide that much deeper under your skin, and that’s why it works so well as a piece of horror. It takes the “uncomfortably familiar” notion that much further, and pushes it into “familiarly uncomfortable” territory, forcing us to explore a topic that’s too often, in mainstream media, kept to op-eds and Very Special Episodes.
And this exploration, of course, is helped along by the fact that by God does Jordan Peele have some confidence behind the camera. Those long, tight close-ups matched with the sprawling blank space of the Sunken Place; the rubbed-raw nerve-ending of tension that’s present from the first moment leading man Chris arrives at his partner’s family home; those tiny jabs of reality that jar you into realizing something is very wrong. When a film gets this much critical acclaim, it can be hard to look at the movie beneath the hype, but Get Out is a polished, inventive, and original entry into the occasionally wheezing horror genre.
Not to mention those performances. The film relies Daniel Kaluuya, rightly nominated for an Oscar, being a likeable leading man who doesn’t feel like he’s trying to be a likeable leading man – there’s nothing more off-putting than those thin-as-fuck character beats crammed in to give characters the charade of depth. Kaluuya’s Chris is vulnerable, self-effacing, and distinctly memorable, which is more than I can say for most horror protagonists. The supporting cast (including one of those actors I’ve followed obsessively for years, Caleb Landry Jones) is spectacular, with Allison Williams all but stealing the show in one dead-eye phone call.
So yeah, while I think horror as a genre as been overlooked when it comes to awards, if any film was going to break it into the critical mainstream, it was going to be this one – confident, intelligent, dense, and ambitious, Get Out wormed it’s way into the popular conciousness and just refused to get out since (I’m so sorry, but I had to fit a pun in somewhere).
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