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Film review: Get Out - uncomfortable, tantalising, terrifying

Daniel Kaluuya stars in Jordan Peele's innovative horror movie Get Out.

Get Out (R16)
104 mins

Get Out is a terrifically enjoyable movie which sends-up the well-worn tropes of the horror genre while cleverly entrapping its audience into laughing heartily at what is actually (still) the sad state of contemporary racial politics. If that sounds like an uncomfortable combination, it is, but nonetheless tantalisingly so.

Writer-director Jordan Peele is one half of the brilliant comedic duo Key & Peele, whose sketches joke around with highlighting and inverting racial stereotypes, at once providing viral sensations (Google "substitute teacher Mr Garvey" for my favourite incarnation) and casting a light on the racism still inherent in all of us – because you could argue that if you get the joke, you have somewhere along the way subscribed to the thinking.

Get Out is Peele's feature directing debut and indisputably marks him out as a talented, incisive social commentator from whom we'll want to see much more.

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In 1967 a liberal young white woman took an African-American man home to meet her parents in the Oscar-winning Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Forty years later, Peele evokes this classic as Rose (Allison Williams from Girls) takes her similarly middle-class and well-educated boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to her family's estate for the weekend. "They are not racist," she assures him with a smile when Chris asks her whether she's told her parents he's black. Her father voted for Obama, and plus, they're the educated middle-class type, so it'll be fine.


But the fact that this scene follows a mysterious opener which depicts a kidnapping to the tune of the facetiously jaunty soundtrack belies something else: Chris has plenty to be worried about.

The couple arrives in the country to meet the most awkwardly "street" dad ever (a superb turn by The West Wing's Bradley Whitford, whom I've never seen deliver his lines without his tongue firmly in his cheek) and Rose's psychiatrist mom (a keen-eyed Catherine Keener). Peele's script zings with wit as the story unfolds with a dazzling mix of colour politics (both explicit and unspoken, and all of it cringe-making, as when one character counts ominously, "One Mississippi, two Mississippi…") and all the set-ups of an impending horror.

As Rose's brother, Caleb Landry Jones channels Heath Ledger's Joker with his subtly threatening jibes as Chris tries not to judge the white family with black servants but can't shake the feeling that something is "off" (his encounter with the maid, an astonishing Betty Gabriel, is completely breathtaking). He is subjected to an excruciating White People Garden Party where the main attractions (apart from the token black male) are Bingo and sparklers. Throughout, every element, from the characters' reaction shots to details of costuming, is brilliantly played and cleverly observed.

As foreshadowed, the social comment is only the half of it, and Get Out may entice viewers as much for its promise of a genuinely creepy plot as its witty manner. But even when it descends (as horrors inevitably do) into carnage, the revelations continue to wrong-foot us and the entertainment never ends.

Sunday Star Times