It’s the rite of passage that all couples go through – after dating for a few months, Chris (British actor Daniel Kaluuya) is getting ready to spend the weekend with his girlfriend Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams) parents. He’s nervous because he’s black and her folks Dean (Bradley Whitford, who played a supporting role in meta horror Cabin in the Woods) and Missy (Catherine Keener) are white, liberal and rich, but they’re totally cool with black people, see.
So they drive up to their country estate, where everything is idyllic and just about perfect. But why are the black servants Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson) so creepily robotic? Why does Logan King (LaKeith Stanfield), seemingly the Armitages’ only African-American friend, seem so familiar? And just what secrets is the grand old house, looking a whole lot like a 19th century plantation estate, hiding?
Get Out is the sleeper hit of the US box office, making about US$100 million so far off a US$5 million budget. Helmed by Jordan Peele of the acclaimed comedy duo Key & Peele, it’s a slyly satirical social commentary about race relations thinly hidden beneath the horror premise. And it’s especially timely given the current political context, with Donald Trump in power and racist, anti-immigrant sentiments coming to the fore globally.
It’s Kaluyaa who carries the film as the everyman African-American, being alternately charming, vulnerable and all-out ragey. It’s also a hoot watching him keep a straight face as white people around him can’t help but try too hard (“I knew Tiger Woods!”) and/or be patronising (“Is it true? Is it better?” asks one lady of Rose, as she touches Chris’s biceps and eyes him lasciviously).
Whitford and in particular Keener are also delightfully controlled and creepy, but it’s Lil Rel Howery as Chris’ foul-mouthed best friend Rod who really steals the show. Rattling off conspiracy theories (“White people love making people sex slaves and shit!”) left and right, he’s a whirlwind of energy and arguably the real hero of the show.
At risk of spoilering you, Get Out also taps on conspiracy theories and urban myths (the Man is out to get you!) that, while outrageous, are sadly not that far from real life. Just consider the Tuskegee medical experiments that began in 1932, when treatment was deliberately withheld from black patients with syphilis in order to track the progress of the disease.
Besides the social themes, the horror moments are also effective, if somewhat one-note and over the top. Missy is especially scary as the woman with hidden powers who wraps Chris around her little finger. The tension sloooowly builds and builds, and by the time you discover the truth about the Armitages, the horror of it all will punch you in the gut.
Perhaps Singapore doesn’t quite have the racial hang ups of the United States, though racism is present in every society and we are no exception. But if you consider yourself liberal and/or enlightened, it’s worth putting yourself in Chris or the Armitages’ shoes and considering how you conduct yourself with your friends of colour.
Get Out is playing in Singapore now. Tell us what you think of the movie!