Veteran Australian cinematographer Toby Oliver only started working in horror recently with Wolf Creek 2. Now he's an in demand lenser of fright flicks, having shot The Darkness, Insidious: Chapter 4 and the record-shattering Get Out.
Horror movies are traditionally not kind to African Americans. Black characters tend to feature in genre films as comedic sidekicks or surly thugs – both archetypes destined for a messy death before the end credits roll. There are exceptions, of course, George A. Romero’s allegorical zombie flicks, Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) both feature black protagonists and cult classic Demon Knight (1995) has a black heroine, played by Jada Pinkett Smith. Movies like this tend to be the exception, however, so when a film like Get Out comes along it makes an impact.
Get Out tells the tale of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) a young black man who is heading into the country to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). It’s a premise rife with comedic potential and uncomfortable social commentary and the first half of Get Out plays like a slightly squirmy, extended version of a Key & Peele sketch, which makes sense as the film is directed by one half of the duo, Jordan Peele himself. Allison’s parents, Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) trip over themselves to prove how progressive and cool with race they are – Dean even suggests he would have “voted for Obama a third time if [he] could” – but it soon becomes clear something darker is happening at the Armitage house and these pleasant-seeming white people have a terrible secret.
To describe any more of the plot would be to head into spoiler territory and that would be a great pity. In fact you’re better off seeing Get Out with as little foreknowledge as possible, even the trailer trades in spoilers and half the fun of the movie is unravelling the (admittedly not terribly complex) mystery at its core.
Get Out is about mood rather than big shocks and gore. Stylistically it feels like a modern, race-focused Rosemary’s Baby – although white privilege stands in for Satan here, and the ultimate reveal comes from a very different place. Jordan Peele’s knowing direction showcases his lifelong genre veneration and the film drips with atmosphere and tension. The social subtext of being an uncomfortable black man in a casually racist white community is both fresh and confronting and adds a new dimension to a well-worn narrative.
Ultimately Get Out is an effective, thought-provoking, slow-burn thriller.It’s a moody horror movie with moments of levity rather than a horror comedy, and offers a rare example of a film that manages to say something incisive and entertain at the same time. If you’re even vaguely interested do yourself a favour and go see it without watching trailers and remember: never trust whitey.