Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Lakeith Stanfield, and Lil Rey Howery
We’ve all been in that weird, unnerving situation or environment where it seems like everyone in the room is completely different than you. This seems to happen much more these days in the divisive landscape that we currently experience in America. “Get Out” takes the premise of a stranger in a strange world, adds in some pertinent social commentary about race and racism, and mixes it up with an interesting horror angle that is both disturbing and darkly humorous.
Jordan Peele, one part of the sketch comedy show “Key and Peele”, showcases some serious genre filmmaking chops in his directorial debut. Though that shouldn’t be too big of a surprise for those who watch his comedic television show, which has tackled the genre of horror and different social commentary themes on numerous occasions. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that Mr. Peele gets the homage to horror scares with near perfect execution; good comedy is all about timing, so is the composition of a good scare. But it’s more than just the frights and the humor and the gore, “Get Out” shines genre light on an aspect of American culture that is so clearly and personally on display everywhere you look. It’s the horror of stereotypes, assumptions, and racism.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a photographer who is in a relationship with a woman named Rose (Allison Williams). Rose is excited to introduce Chris to her family, who live in a small estate in a remote town. However, Chris is concerned about going because Rose hasn’t told her Caucasian family that he is African-American. That's really all the premise you need, going in with more information will ruin the experience.
Mr. Peele introduces the film in a unique way, bringing in the anxiety of being a person of color in a community that is unlike what may be familiar with. As a young black man (Lakeith Stanfield) walks through a suburb that looks eerily familiar to the town of Haddonfield in “Halloween”, with houses that resemble those found on Elm Street in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, he is targeted and attacked after making every attempt to sidestep the situation. It’s a familiar horror movie moment done extremely well; one that introduces the tone of the story which is filled with dread and suspicion but also humor and a sense of authenticity. It also places the viewer in the perspective of the outsider in this world.
From this moment Mr. Peele continues to pile on the awkward, the anxious, the peculiar, and the downright frightening pieces, creating a claustrophobic environment that doesn’t offer an easy escape. Even when moments of levity make an appearance it comes in the form of a vessel, a telephone, which connects Chris to the outside world and with his friend Rod (Lil Rey Howery). When this vessel of escape becomes an object in jeopardy, the walls close in further. It’s an ingenious strategy that Mr. Peele utilizes here but also in a few different ways to continue building the tension and introduce the viewer to the real mystery.
What grounds “Get Out” is the moments when real life steps in; when Chris must appease his girlfriend’s family’s obvious stereotypes and prejudices, when the separation of friends and foes becomes blurred because of how familiar and normal these race concerned situations are for Chris. It’s not until he see’s people like him, other black people, acting in ways that are so far flung from the ordinary that suspicion is raised for him, when what some would call ignorance begins to have a menacing and threatening undertone. In one of the best moments in the film Chris has a personal moment with the family's black maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel), he expresses concern and nervousness about the strange situation and is greeted with a chilling response of a forced smile with intense eyes filled with tears, outwardly maintaining composure and internally screaming to be heard. Metaphor is a powerful tool in this film and Mr. Peele brilliantly wields it in the same way blood is thrown around in slasher films.
Good horror stories are always trying to say something, take a look at George Romero’s seminal social commentary in “Dawn of the Dead” for an example of this. The remarkable aspect of “Get Out” isn’t the scares or the monsters, it’s the situation it introduces and utilizes to portray aspects of race and racism in thought-provoking and frightening views. Here’s to hoping that Mr. Peele has more horror to share in the future.
4.25 out of 5.00