In this brilliant debut horror movie by Comedy Central veteran Jordan Peele, the unseen terror is casual racism and the insidious force is cultural whitewashing. And while that premise could easily descend into a liberal jumble of earnest back-slapping, Get Out is smart enough to balance its message with a wicked comic streak and some serious horror nous.
It follows a young interracial couple as the white girlfriend prepares to introduce her fella to the folks back home. Alas, back home is a creepy, picket-fence suburb where people of colour have fixed smiles and glassy eyes.
On one level it’s about the fears of a black man lost in the kind of white American neighbourhood where African Americans have a tendency of getting shot, and on a wider level it explores how liberal Americans are fine with people of colour just so long as they act like white folk.
Neatly divided into three acts, director Jordan Peele throws the majority of the social commentary into the middle section, touching upon various facets of racism: how it’s ever-present even when race isn’t being directly discussed; how black bodies are fetishised (“Come here and let me feel your muscles”); how platitudes stop people from having real conversations (“I would have voted for Obama a third time…”). These scenes are every bit as watch-through-your-fingers uncomfortable as the more overt horror that follows.
When that horror arrives, Get Out becomes a slick scary movie that gleefully subverts your expectations, recalling films as disparate as Jonathan Glazer’s brilliant Under the Skin, John Carpenter’s classic Halloween and Bryan Forbes’ 1975 take on The Stepford Wives.
Horror movies have always explored our cultural anxieties – it’s a wonder we had to wait this long for Get Out.
First published in City A.M.