GET OUT (2017, Jordan Peele)
The premise sounded great, but that’s just a premise. Then the trailer came out, and it was great, but that’s just a trailer. Now the film is here, and what-do-you-know, it’s great. Peele makes literal what has presumably been a figurative horror for so many black men: meeting their white girlfriend’s family. It’s hard to think of a horror masterwork in American cinema that hasn’t been anchored by either politics, social issues, or some sort of zeitgeist fear. But how often have the complexities of things such as interracial dating, fawning liberal condescension, and class guilt been mined for true terror? Not often, and Peele squeezes every drop of juice he can from this fertile fruit.
The script is tight as a drum — hardly a line or scene is wasted: the deer hitting the car feels metaphorical while it’s happening, but Rose’s reaction (refusing to let the cop harass Chris for his ID), her dad’s reaction (“They’re like rats” infecting the area and need to be stomped out; every dead one “is a good start”) all make such good sense the further this story goes. White symbols like the colonial architecture and the old-school teacup become harbingers of doom; passive bigotry like the discussion of black genetics, muscle tone, and lack of intelligence are all revealed as motives, not just opinions. And that feels somewhat revolutionary.
This is an hour of delicious setup, but then the final act is one enormous, cathartic release of tension. We spend so long seeing everything through Chris’s eyes (the most sympathetic protagonist in a horror film I can think of in years) that the hell unleashed in the back third of the movie comes armed with righteous truth. Not unlike Jamie Foxx’s rise to power at the end of DJANGO UNCHAINED, Chris’s arc is at once frightening, smart, and deliriously deserved. Peele’s camera sense is finely tuned, allowing close-ups to unnerve us as much as wide shots, long takes, and jump scares. Perhaps some of the narrative contrivances are a little too sweaty (Rod’s visit to the police, the happens-to-be-open-right-then closet door) but those flaws are easy to overlook when there are so many totems of wealthy, white, oppressive culture (a bocce ball, a police car, a stuffed and mounted deer head) put — ironically and delectably — into the hands of the black man.