Balancing Horror Scares with Biting Social Commentary
Jordan Peele, of comedy duo Key & Peele, makes his directorial debut with the 2017 horror film Get Out; starring Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. So much has already been said in the media about this box office smash ($241 Million revenue on a $4.5 Million budget), but the universal critical acclaim is not without its merits. Jordan Peele has delivered one of the more thought-provoking horror films in recent memory, and asserted himself as a must-watch director moving forward.
Get Out follows the story of Chris Washington, a young African American man, and his weekend spent with his white girlfriend Rose Armitage, as she introduces him to her family in upstate New York. Chris has some initial reservations about the clashing of cultural identities with Rose’s caucasian background, but his mind is quickly put to ease by Rose. However, not all is as it appears at the idyllic Armitage family estate. Chris may have good reason to have been weary; but he couldn’t have foreseen the true sinister nature of his hosts.
With Get Out, writer/director Jordan Peele has crafted a horror film with social commentary presented as biting satire. Peele employs very few cheap horror film tropes; and those that does seem to have their own feel; such as the nighttime meeting between Chris and the Armitages’ groundskeeper. The ‘run in’ provides the ‘jump’ you expect from a horror film, without feeling like a lazy horror trick rehash. Unpredictable and wholly original, Get Out‘s many twists add up to a satisfying reveal. Peele very narrowly avoids the horror film third act story failure/drop-off so regular to the genre. Perhaps the best part of Get Out‘s story is the social commentary, never delivered too heavily. Peele finds the balance between thrills and social comment that lesser writers would have turned into pontification.
Daniel Kaluuya leads the impressive cast of Get Out with a star-making performance as Chris. Unlike many (forgettable) horror films – where a small group of friends is being chases by the ‘big baddie’, Kaluuya’s Chris is all alone. That isolation, as he discovers who the ‘big baddie(s)’ of this film are, provide a particularly claustrophobic sense of peril. As he takes turns looking for support from fellow black man Logan King (played by LaKeith Stanfield) and his own girlfriend Rose, he slowly comes to realize the trap he has fallen into.
Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Caleb Landry Jones round out the cast a the Armitage clan; with each actor bringing their own brand of deep-seeded malevolence to the role. Whitford and Keener play good cop and good-er cop, both barely able to hold in their true intentions out of excitement. Caleb Landry Jones is more destructive, and doesn’t care to hide it.
Jordan Peele should be commended for his writing choices which make this film fresh to audiences, but his direction shouldn’t be overlooked either. Camera cuts are used smartly to develop both the foreboding peril that Chris has fallen into, but also in the occasional comedic relief provided by Lil Rel Howery’s Rod Williams; Chris’ friend back home. Paired with Peele’s direction is his choice of film score, particularly the number played over the opening credits; a vaguely tribal sound that creates palpable atmosphere.
- Screenwriting: 9/10 – Jordan Peele has found a fresh story in a typically stale genre
- Acting: 8/10 – Get Out‘s ensemble cast works in rhythm, with Kaluuya leading the way
- Directing: 8/10 – Smartly executed buy nothing ground-breaking
8/10, Directing newcomer Jordan Peele bursts onto the scene win what may be the hardest genre to find critical success, and delivers a scary-good social commentary without ever being preachy.