Believe the hype. Comedian Jordan Peele has made the movie of the year.
Get Out was the movie everyone was talking about when it was released in the US all the way back in February, grossing an astonishing $193 million off the back of its paltry $4.5 million micro-budget. Now, finally, Australian audiences will get a chance to see what all the fuss was about when the film is released here this week.
The film tells the story of Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, in a star-making performance), who takes a weekend away with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her well-to-do parents, neurosurgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford) and hypnotherapist Missy (Catherine Keener).
Chris, a black man, is nervous and on-edge about how he will be received by his white girlfriend’s parents, although she is quick to reassure him that they aren’t racist — heck, they would have voted for Obama for a third term if they could. But despite the best efforts of Dean and Missy to put Chris at ease, he can’t help but notice that there’s something… off about their black groundskeeper and housekeeper.
And that’s all we’re going to say about the plot, because the less you know going in, the better.
This is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, although you might already know him as one half of the sketch comedy duo Key & Peele (with Keegan-Michael Key). That he would drop one of the greatest horror films of the 21st century on debut, seemingly out of the blue, is absolutely extraordinary.
Of course, if you look hard enough, there is a certain theme in Peele’s comedy that hints at the territory he covers here. He’s often explored the lie of ‘post-racial America’ — the idea that, because America had a black President, racism was a thing of the past.
Get Out, conceived and shot in the Obama era but released amid the early days of Trump’s Presidency, takes this idea to its logical conclusion, and exposes the racial tensions that continue to simmer underneath the surface in America.
But this isn’t an after-school special, or a heavy-handed ‘message’ movie. Peele isn’t interested in preaching. He simply uses those real-world tensions to fuel the horror and paranoia at the heart of his film, and add an extra layer of scares to situations that would already be scary enough in a truly colour blind world.
Peele ramps up the horror and navigates the story’s shocking twists with the assured skill of a master craftsman — if you came into the movie cold, you’d swear it was the work of a seasoned horror director in his prime, not a first-time director who’s just watched a lot of horror movies in his time.
While the influence of the horror movies Peele grew up with is obvious — especially The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining — Get Out never turns into a game of spot-the-reference. Peele has synthesised his inspirations to create a truly singular style.
It helps that Get Out is funny. Yes, it’s terrifying, but it’s often hilarious, too. Lil Rel Howery, as audience surrogate Rod, steals virtually every scene he’s in, and even the most unsettling scenes are never far away from a big laugh moment. But the humour doesn’t detract from the horror – it just adds to the tension, because you never know when Peele is going to puncture that laughter with a scare.
It’s appropriate that the opening credits are soundtracked by Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ — both Gambino (aka Donald Glover) and Jordan Peele started out in comedy, and have since shattered any box that audiences might try to place them in. Nobody’s calling Gambino a novelty act anymore, and nobody’s doubting that Peele has the chops to direct whatever he wants to next.
A pitch-perfect blend of horror, social commentary and jet-black comedy, Get Out is an instant classic that demands to be seen in a packed theatre with a mesmerised audience.
It took far too long to make it to Australian screens, but now that it’s here, you definitely don’t want to miss it.
Get Out is in cinemas from Thursday 4 May.