What a cracker this is! If you like being 'entertained' and tensed up by watching a drama with a deeply disturbing undercurrent you won't currently find anything to touch this one. I saw it yesterday afternoon and since then it's haunted me, including having invaded my fitful sleep. What makes it even more remarkable is that it's also the directing debut of one Jordan Peele who is, additionally, its sole writer. His is a name to follow with considerable interest.
The unsettling starts in the very opening, pre-title credits scene - largely set to a car radio ominously and incongruously playing Flanagan and Allen's rendering of 'Run Rabbit Run' (they being two English music hall stars of long-gone yesteryear). After this chilling 'What's going on?' prologue the mood hardly lightens up at all, the tension being ratcheted up still further, notch by notch, till at points I felt near to screaming.
Daniel Kaluuya is the boyfriend of Allison Williams and they go to visit her parents in rural Alabama for the first time, he having qualms about their not yet knowing that he is black, while her attitude is one of "Why should they mind?". During their drive a disturbing incident occurs foreshadowing what's to come, made more troubling by a curious encounter with the policeman investigating what happened.
On arriving at the palatial dwelling, things become markedly stranger still. There's something odd about the parent's demeanours (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener), in no way hostile but peculiarly over-officious in their welcoming and camaraderie. She is a psychologist who specialises in hypnosis and even claims to be able to help him give up smoking.
Adding to the strangeness of the parents, there's two non-white servants, one maid and one odd-job man/gardener, both of whose facial expressions and gestures seem at variance with what one might expect from people of their 'lower' ranking. Then a disruptive and hyperactive adult son appears who seems to be hell-bent on causing dissension with Kaluuya, to his parents' evident discomfort.
The very next day, and not expected by the young couple, there's a large garden party being held in the grounds, the guests all being affluent, ageing and white - all white, that is, except for one conspicuous young man who has come as the partner of a lady some decades older than he is. One of the film's many turning points comes as the main Kaluuya's character attempts to strike up a conversation with this arrival - at which the chill deepens.
The story seems to challenge its audience to work out exactly what is going on with these very strange events. I thought I might have had it sussed out but when the big 'reveal' takes place, about an hour and a quarter into the film, it turned out that my guess was completely the opposite to the reality.
This film is being regularly defined as 'horror' and though it does certainly have elements of that genre, to my mind it's closer to being a very taut thriller, replete with suspense and taking its cue from the unexpected and the unknown rather than displaying outright gore, the usual hallmarks of true 'horror'. There is actually some blood to be seen now and again, but at times of lethal contact between characters, especially in the grand finale of confrontations, it seemed to me that the film pulled back from showing the full bloody effects of these encounters. In fact I did wonder if the film had been cut at these points - perhaps by the censors, though I doubt it. But the effect of not going full visual throttle is to put the emphasis on the suspense rather than blood-soaked spectacle, and for that it is to be commended.
Once the revelation of explanation for the circumstances had been made I was afraid that the carefully built-up tension would be dissipated, with still another half hour of film to go. But the suspense is shifted and maintained enough to make me still dearly hope for a 'happy end'. I didn't want to leave the cinema feeling bad, the story having up to then gripped me so effectively.
I did jump in my seat at two or three points in the film, though I think they were all cases caused by a sudden loud 'thud' on the soundtrack. That was a pity as I think I would have been just as (or more?) startled at those junctures without that auditory underlining, an adopted ploy which I see as 'cheating'.
Apart from the presence of the inestimable Catherine Keener, I didn't recognise any other names from the cast, though I now see that Daniel Kaluuya was in the justifiably well-received 'Sicario' too. (His playing the lead role in this 'Get Out', has recently given rise in some quarters as to the question of why, recently, are so many parts portraying black Americans being given to British actors? Makes a change for Brits being stereotypically cast as villains, I suppose.)
This may not be a film for those with, as they say, a 'nervous disposition', but if you can steel yourself to see it as I heartily recommend you do, I'm pretty sure that you'll be happy for having chanced the ride...........8.
40 minutes ago