Jordan Peele has a point to make in his new horror comedy Get Out, but he’s content to deliver it through thrills and well-timed scares as opposed to a lecture. Taking cues from things such The Stepford Wives and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, it’s a witty takedown of less overt forms of bigotry that don’t always take the form of outspoken hate.
The story, as bizarre and downright surrealistic as it eventually becomes, cleverly utilizes an inherent sense of unease many people of color feel in social situations. And what makes Get Out so special is how the film parlays that unease into an entertainingly creepy tale that can give chills to all sorts of audiences.
Chris, a black male photographer who’s desperately trying to kick a smoking habit, is traveling with his white girlfriend Rose to her family’s ranch after being involved for a few months. As their characters, Daniel Kaluuya and Alison Williams respectively are pretty endearing form the start of the movie, the two of them have some fine chemistry.
Even when they disagree, they never de-evolve into the usual cliché of the unlikable horror protagonists that the audience wants the killer to eventually whack. This is a cathartic movie, no doubt, but for different reasons.
Her parents- Dean, a neurosurgeon played by The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, and Missy, a hypnotherapist played by Catherine Keener, seem very off in the degree of their overcompensation toward Chris. As Rose’s father muses about his willingness to vote for Barack Obama for a third term (if it were possible) and his grandfather’s loss to Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympics, Chris comes to the realization the Armitage family, for all of their supposed friendliness, see his skin color foremost over his other qualities as a person.
As the meeting progresses, it’s hard for anyone not to find the Armitages just plain creepy as a whole. The disturbing, eerily happy demeanors of the family’s hired black labor- Betty Gabriel as a way-too-friendly housekeeper and Marcus Henderson as a groundskeeper who behaves more like a robot than a person- doesn’t help matters. Chris’s best friend and TSA officer Rod (a hilarious Lil Rel Howery) gradually emerges as the voice of reason over his phone, trying to warn the plucky photographer that something is clearly amiss.
One winning aspect of Get Out I don’t think has been discussed enough is the strength of Kaluuya’s performance as Chris. He’s curious but far from stupid, and like Rose turns out to be more complex than they initially appear. His backstory is blended with the unfolding conflict well, and Kaluuya gives him great variety in terms of his range. Occasionally he’ll have a cute, charming moment with Williams, vulnerability and wide-eyed terror when needed, and moments of anger and determination when necessary. Whitford and Keener are extremely unsettling antagonists, and even though there are some cool and haunting visual effects thanks in part to Tony Oliver’s cinematography, it’s almost unnecessary because they’re perfect for that Blumhouse style of horror.
I predict Get Out will easily be a horror film I’ll gladly watch multiple times when it comes out on Blu-Ray. On top of its dark sense of humor, the biting, layered social commentary and starring an appealing lead, the acting helps add to how nuanced the film is as a whole, and the story unfolds at such an enjoyable pace that it’s hard not to get sucked in. It’s surprisingly risky, not just in terms of its messages, but how it stands out as a scary movie that values having a brain and questioning its audience’s sensibilities over splattering excessive amounts of gore around the screen. Strongly recommended!