Horror is far more socially conscious than people give it credit for. Since the days of George A. Romero, horror has been dabbling in much darker themes than gore and psychos. Issues of racism, feminism and governmental oversight have been seeped into the thrills and chills of horror for a while now, but it’s much rarer in mainstream releases as of recent years. Now, Jordan Peele of Key & Peele has sought to create a horror film that deals directly with the uncomfortable subject of race in Get Out. Peele clearly has a knowledge about the genre. The title Get Out alone shows that Peele is aware of how the audience will react to any number of typical horror tropes. So, the story and direction Peele has constructed is fully capable of subverting expectations.
Keep in mind: despite his comedy background, Get Out isn’t a purely comedic exercise for Peele. There are plenty of funny moments, mainly from awkward family interactions and Lil Rel Howery’s hysterical comedic relief side character. However, the horror reigns supreme in Get Out, facing uncomfortable subjects without batting an eye. There are no moments of overt parody. Instead, Peele takes the horror context that many would be aware of and gives them a racial overtone that gives them an even more disturbing context. For example, the chilling opening sequence has shades of Halloween in terms of the suburban setting and creeping atmosphere. Yet, the actions at hand are somehow more unsettling than Michael Myers stalking a few teenagers, bringing up modern news stories without being too overt.
Get Out ‘s racial targets are far more nuanced than one would expect. After all, the white family our lead Daniel Kaluuya is facing isn’t an overtly prejudice one. After all, Bradley Whitford‘s charming father character states himself that “he would have voted for Obama a third term” if he could. No, the racism that Get Out stews in is more directed toward the left that denies having any such perceptions. The type of subtle looks, gestures and words that try to present a post-racial society yet have every inkling of such behavior. That even I can admit to being guilty of in my own life. Kaluuya masterfully shows off his own subtly in reacting to all this, with the cool head of someone who’s experienced such behavior first hand and merely lets it go so as to not rock the boat.
Thus, when things become far creepier, his reactions are far more astute and confused. Highlighting just how off putting all of this becomes in the process. Kaluuya acts as an intriguing audience surrogate that reveals the true nature of these other characters. He reveals Whitford’s obsessions that are much more conspicuous than intended. His scenes with Catherine Keener as the mother unveil a very uncomfortable power that’s displayed with unparalleled visual splendor by Peele. Even the interactions between Kaluuya and Allison Williams act as a comforting based for him. Keeping him sane while giving him an outlet to unload the past that constantly hangs over him. Get Out knows the trick that mainstream horror movies often fail to click into; empathy.
That empathy is something that translates beyond mere engagement with the main characters. It’s the type of empathy that the liberal white characters have forgotten in their more selfish pursuits. The empathy that becomes muddled in pursuit of treating racial situations like they’re past the point of relevancy. That’s what Get Out geniusly strives for. To show that unintended lack of empathy and unveil it through this horror prism. It’s the kind of filmmaking that makes horror a far more palpable genre than its often given credit for. One that can take modern issues head on, but without preaching. It’s the perfect mix of entertainment and enlightenment that films in general can hope to mix, horror or otherwise.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Deer Antlers
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