If you know Jordan Peele’s work, it’s probably because he’s made you laugh. With Get Out, the writer and star of Key And Peele and Keanu shows that he’s more than capable of taking you right to the edge of your seat, turning his keen eye and sharp wit to the horror genre.
Peele’s directorial debut is both nail-biting genre cinema and a chilling piece of social commentary. Racial tension runs high throughout, as acclaimed photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) navigates a seemingly benign but increasingly uncomfortable situation.
The setting is the secluded estate of Chris’ white girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) wealthy family. She assures Chris that her family isn’t racist, that her father Dean (Bradley Whitford) would have voted for Obama for a third time if he could, and that he will definitely bring that up.
But as Chris meets Dean, Rose’s hypnotherapist mother Missy (Catherine Keener) and her boozy, intense brother (Caleb Landry Jones), their endless attempts at political correctness are hard to read. Is there something underneath the smiles, the as-predicted Obama comments, the acknowledgment of their live-in help, and “my man” endearments? When guests arrive for the annual garden party, it feels like things are about to come to a head…
Many of Get Out’s surprises have been given away by the marketing, but the fears on display here are not diluted by the fact that we know something bad is on the way. There are situations that we know all too well from real-world crimes and horrors (a black man walking alone through an affluent suburb, an encounter with a casually racist highway patrolman), but it’s the conversations with Rose’s family that really crackle.
With excellent performances from his cast (rising star Kaluuya is superb in a break-out lead role and Whitford in particular is gleefully unreadable), Peele creates an incredible sense of unease as Chris tries to curb his instinct to get out in the face of what could be blind racial stereotyping or what might be something far more sinister. He shows great confidence as he plays with genre conventions (two classics in particular are heavily referenced and subverted) and takes some pretty big genre swings.
The film was shot last year but feels more relevant than ever in our current political climate, and Get Out doesn’t only deliver an important, powerful message, it shows us a point of view that we too rarely see in horror cinema. This is an excellent horror that is gripping, scary, witty and timely, and it’s got something to say. Even if you don’t think all of it comes off, you will be talking about it.