I remember the day when it was announced that “Key and Peele” star Jordan Peele was making his feature length directorial debut with a horror movie. I was legitimately excited to learn that Peele was a big fan of horror and that he had as much interest in it as he did comedy. It just remained to be seen whether or not he had as much talent for horror as he did comedy. With “Get Out” has Peele managed to successfully translate his skills to a new genre or does his attempt at horror need more work?
In “Get Out” Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are a young mixed race couple visiting Rose’s affluent white family for a weekend of fun. Chris is a little apprehensive about the trip, worrying that Rose’s family may not accept a black man as their daughter’s boyfriend. However, despite some initial awkwardness, Chris finds Rose’s family to be warm and accepting. It isn’t long, though, before Chris starts to sense that something is amiss. Other black people in the neighborhood seem to be slightly off and the overly nice welcome he receives begins to take on a sinister undertone.
I think the best way to describe “Get Out” is that it feels like a social commentary in the vein of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and a new age horror film in the style of “You’re Next.” In an interesting twist, the film isn’t about the sort of overt racism you’d expect to see in a film about a black man visiting a rich white neighborhood (though there is some of that). It deals a lot with the awkward pandering type of racism, the kind of thing where people don’t know they’re being racist.
There’s a scene where Chris is going around at a party and people are making strange comments about how his “genetic makeup” makes him a great athlete or how cool it is to be black. It’s the sort of tension that makes Chris feel like he’s a trophy on display rather than a person. And the film does a good job of placing you in Chris’ shoes so you feel the isolation that he finds himself in and you feel his nervousness when things start to close in on him.
“Get Out” does an impeccable job of dealing with social commentary without beating you over the head with it. In a large part that is due to Chris being a well-realized character and not just a vehicle through which the commentary is delivered. Actor Daniel Kaluuya does an amazing job of presenting him as a vulnerable person dealing with intense emotional baggage while also being a cool badass when he needs to be.
However, while all this serious racial tension is going on, the film manages to break things up and weave in comedy at just the right amounts to make you feel comfortable before the next big scare or tense moment. If you’re familiar with Jordan Peele’s work you might know what sort of comedy to expect. It isn’t too slapstick or bizarre, usually it’s a snide remake from Chris, but the real humor comes from Chris’ friend Rod (LilRel Howery). Rod works as a TSA agent and acts as Chris’ confidant while he’s visiting Rose’s family. Rod steals the show in a big way and every scene he pops up in garnered a lot of love from my audience. He even earned a round of applause. Rod is definitely the breakout character of the year.
As for the horror aspect of “Get Out”, the film deals a lot with the mind and what it would be like to lose control of who you are. It’s not intensely scary, but it is an unnerving idea that’s reminiscent of “The Stepford Wives” or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The film also sprinkles in some decent jump scares throughout, but doesn’t rely on them. Where this film really excels is just building up the intensity of scenes. Very rarely does a movie manage to make me feel stressed out, but there were a couple of scenes in this film where my heart was pounding in my throat as Chris finds himself in an increasingly dire situation. By the end of the scene I was damn near exhausted.
“Get Out”, on a surface level, is a fantastic horror comedy that’ll appeal to just about any horror fan. Earlier I made the comparison to “You’re Next” and I think that’s a good benchmark to determine whether or not you’ll like this film. They share a similar tone and style so if you loved “You’re Next” I think you’ll feel the same way about “Get Out.” The film also has a very relevant feel that makes it more than just a casual experience. I have a feeling “Get Out” will be brought up in discussions and comparisons to other films for years to come.