Get Out is unlike any horror film I’ve ever seen.
There are very few films that can execute both horror and comedy simultaneously, and far fewer that can grapple with complex social politics in a way that becomes increasingly insightful the more you think about it. But Get Out is one of a kind – providing the kind of social commentary through storytelling that will likely make it a classic.
Traditionally, black people in horror films have played a very peripheral role. They’re usually the first to die, if they’re present at all, and their death is rarely consequential. In popular culture more broadly, they’re seen as the assailant far more often than they’re seen as the victim.
So a horror film in which a black character is the protagonist and the victim is revolutionary in itself.
Watch the trailer for Get Out. Post continues after video.
The opening scene sees a black man walking down a dark suburban street at night. He’s scared. He mutters to himself the same way most of us do when we’re trying to reassure ourselves of our own safety – swearing at the situation, as well as our own fear.
In the cinema, people laughed. It’s innately funny to see a grown black man feeling so uncomfortable in a quiet, upper class neighbourhood. What could he possibly be afraid of?
Then he’s kidnapped. And from those first few moments, it’s obvious this isn’t your typical horror film.
In New York, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time during a weekend away. Rose (Allison Williams) assures Chris that while she hasn’t told her parents he’s black, “they’re not racist,” and if he could, her father would’ve voted for Obama for a third term.
When they arrive, we're shown, through Chris' eyes, the gradual progression of microaggressions from Rose's white liberal family. Chris laughs in the way we've all seen young men laugh when they're uncomfortable. The laugh that says, "no, I'm fine" when deep down they're feeling profoundly alone.
A party with friends of Rose's family turns these microaggressions into comedy. Chris is inundated with comments so familiar they're uncomfortable to watch - but they're put together with such clever timing that the audience can't help but sense the pure absurdity from Chris' point of view.
It serves as an extended, very telling joke about the way white people see black people, and perhaps more insightfully, how black people see white people.
But what we're laughing at, ultimately, is sad.
We're laughing at the hypocrisy of white liberals. We're laughing at the uncomfortable truths of race relations. We're laughing at the facade of white people's 'admiration' for black culture, as they simultaneously fail to see how their stereotypes and beliefs hurt the individuals within that culture.
We're laughing at the nightmare of being black.
And by the end of the film - which I won't spoil - it really is a nightmare.
For me, what makes Get Out so powerful is the way the plot serves as an allegory for the relationship between race and identity.
The final scenes of the film are profoundly informed by what Chris has been subjected to and the power structures that exist around him. His behavioural repertoire is so narrow because it's the only way for him to 'get out'.
Of course, this story isn't just about black lives in the US.
Get Out has the potential to strike a particularly meaningful chord with Australian audiences - given that it represents a narrative that's run through our history. The film could have just as easily been made about Australia's relations with our Indigenous people, who were forced into submission by whites, many of whom believed they were doing the right thing.
Today, Indigenous Australians are often patronised by other well meaning white people - an experience many of us will never understand.
Indeed, there's an element of Get Out that can't be explained in words. It leaves its audience unsettled and terrified, not only for its gore and jump scares, but for what it shows us about race in 2017.
In Australia, as in the US, we remain constantly engaged in a debate about what is and isn't racist.
Get Out shows us that the truth often lies somewhere between horror and comedy. And sometimes it needs to be felt, rather than articulated.