The best genre pieces stand up to scrutiny based on that old chestnut, context.
The ones without any kind of context are usually just fluff. Nothing wrong with overt fluff, per se (Overt Fluff being a lesser-known prog rock act from the mid ’70s) but there’s certain things that keep the standard bearers of the horror genre in one field or another. Get Out, the debut feature from comedian-actor Jordan Peele, is one which stands out from the crowd. It towers.
This is a brilliantly realised horror film. It’s just superb – director Peele handles every aspect of its production with confidence, finesse and a remarkable sure-handedness you’d not expect from a former TV sketch comedy performer making his directorial debut.
And I’m not a huge fan of the horror genre – I’m skeptical about horror films relying too heavily on certain things: implied fear, revealing the terror before the second or third act, or when you have someone behind the camera using little more than sudden bursts of noise or music to make a point. These days there’s any number of slasher films which all appear stylised and derivative – usually involving dismemberments and the like. They used to be done better, I tells ya. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a case in point, as is The Exorcist, and to a certain degree is Spielberg’s Jaws.
The genius of this work is that it is a film which places its content in the subtext of cultural appropriation, all the while literally being about cultural appropriation. It’s kind of as if Jordan Peele went about making a modern Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, popped it in a cinematic blender with Rosemary’s Baby or The Stepford Wives, pushed ‘puree’ … and made this exquisite dish.
Daniel Kaluuya makes a superb lead in this; encapsulating every nuanced moment, emotion and reaction. Never heard of this guy before, but his is a star-making turn. Allison Williams, too. She’s great – she plays Rose with many of the same notes with which she played Marnie on Girls… until she doesn’t. And it makes a huge impact. Mad props, too to Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as the parents – all too welcoming and condescending, squirm-inducing at times to tremendous effect; I also think most films are better with the inclusion of Stephen Root.
Some of the smaller details burn into your consciousness like a watermark after seeing it. Little things, like the fact that Kaluuya’s Chris is a highly-accomplished photographer, and his photos within the film are actually, genuinely beautiful. Or the small notes Peele includes in his tight, smart screenplay, such as a silent auction of sorts involving bingo cards, or the incorporation of unexpected music cues and the very precise language and performances he extracts from some of the smaller roles in his cast. And the perfectly rendered tonal shifts made through the character of Rod, played here by Lil Rel Howery (who is just so great in this), in one of those parts that can only make someone huge. He’s a note-perfect comic foil.
Get Out will be remembered for its creativity, and how effectively it starts a conversation about something so culturally significant in such a unique, superbly entertaining fashion.
This will be one of my favourite films of the year, no doubt. It’s easily among the best feature debuts I’ve ever seen.