Jordan Peele is a funny guy – as one half of the Comedy Central hit, ‘Key & Peele’ he regularly wrote and participated in skit after skit that skewered racial issues with a populist slant. Now that the two comedians have ended their show on a high note, he sought to create, to paraphrase his own description, a horror movie highlighting a subject rarely explored in mainstream entertainment. ‘Get Out’ is not what you’d expect as it is genuinely scary with plenty of acerbic wit, both dark and light. The script was never in doubt, what’s most surprising is the deft and precise direction Peele brings to his very unique, yet mainstream thriller.
Like a full length episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, writer/director Peele turns a seemingly idyllic setting/situation into a nightmare scenario. Chris (British actor Daniel Kaluuya, best know for an episode of the modern answer to the aforementioned ‘Zone”, ‘Black Mirror’) is taking a trip to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (‘Girls’ Allison Williams in a convincing performance) parents for the first time at their upstate estate. He’s a bit concerned as she hasn’t mentioned to them that he is black, to which she assures him that they are as liberal as they come (she jokes that her father would have voted Obama to a third term if he could). Their trip gets off to a rocky start when they hit a deer on a country road and the responding police officer asks him for his license even though he wasn’t driving. When they arrive, he is warmly received by her parents, played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener (‘we’re huggers’), but something seems off – they have two black servants who are acting almost robotic in their work, and there is an air of uneasiness, made palpable in Peele’s use of wide frame and languid tracking shots. Once the suspense ratchets up, he moves to severe close-ups of wide eyes and streaming tears, like most of the great horror classics (think ‘Halloween’ and the original ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’), allowing his actors to draw the audience uncomfortably into their direct space.
It’s best to leave the story to unfold on its’ own, but things get stranger by the hour as the more Chris experiences, the more he begins to feel there is a sinister, rotten core beneath this veneer of white suburban gloss. It would be easy to make these folks thinly veiled white supremacists, but Peele has more on his mind. The trap he sets for the semi-suspect Chris is not an obvious one, and the fun of the movie is how it plays with race and perception for both black and white viewers, right to its’ final frame. If this all seems a bit heady, the movie does not play that way – ‘Get Out’ is a well-staged, well-acted thriller that hits all the right beats and earnestly draws the gasps and cheers out of its’ audience, albeit with a situation and protagonist rarely centered on, but very welcome, in a successful effort to shake up mainstream horror . . .
Written & Directed By: Jordan Peele
Running Time: 103 min.
* * * * (out of 4 stars) -OR- A