The latest in a great craze of social parable horror (It Follows, Under the Shadow), Jordan Peele’s Get Out begins by turning America’s racist-stereotype of “black man as a threat” into a black man threatened. From there until its gorily-ever-after ending—where the “black male home-invader” becomes a black escaper of home-grown white-terror—the film only gets more awkwardly creepy in its bloody skein of white liberalism and racial targeting.
The eerie events begin with a black man, lost in the veritable “hedge maze” of a white suburb, snatched by a shadowy figure (to the tune of nursery rhyme “Run Rabbit Run”.) Cut to Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) heading off to visit her family at their country estate and, en route, they hit a deer. Once there, beyond the expected awkwardness with her parents (“I would have voted for Obama for a third term,”) and party guests’ cheerful focus on Chris’ skin colour (“I love Tiger [Woods]!”), strangeness is afoot. The two black servants seem stiff, even vacant. And soon after Allison’s mom (Catherine Keener) hypnotizes Chris to help him quit smoking, he starts feeling trapped.
Whereas last year’s Keanu showcased the sillier side of Keegan-Michael Key and Peele’s TV sketch series, Get Out turns the pointed racial satire of many Key and Peele bits into a super-assured mix of acerbic social comedy (post-Obama, white people try to be cool and relatable to this nice African-American fellow) and horror-dread (young black man knows what’s coming when a car with flashing lights pulls up…) The film wears its influences lightly (The Stepford Wives; the revelation’s echo of Being John Malkovich, which starred Keener) even as it camera-tracks the dark side of a supposedly “post-racial” USA.
The slavery-haunted setting of the South isn’t even made obvious (the film was shot in Alabama; there’s a banjo-jangle of Deliverance), but it still seeps and creeps into and under our skin. We feel the warning-tingles more and more, the little chills and cuts to the soul, the silent swallows-of-pride and shrugged-off indignities which Chris feels as he tries to ignore so many moments of tokenism, condescension, and presumptuousness… until he may not be able to get out of this supposed “land of the free” at all.