Imma just put this out there, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut got me all kinds of f*cked up…
Get Out starts with a satirical take on highly recognizable situation to lull you into a false sense of smugness; comfortable that you know exactly what this film has in store. And like all good horror movies, before the open credits even roll it pulls a smothered shriek – and the smug – right out of you. The trailer for this movie in no way captures what this story is about and you’ll be glad of it before all is said and done.
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) are heading out of town to visit her family for the weekend. It’s that moment in a relationship likely to be anxiety-inducing: officially meeting the parents. Now, imagine you heading out to the country to meet your white girlfriend’s parents for the first time and as far as you know, they have no idea you’re black… awkward much? Writer and Director Jordan Peele takes this already potentially worrisome encounter and builds an understated yet utterly ominous horror movie the likes of which few – if any -could accomplish with such aplomb.
Chris finds himself in multiple situations that will be more than a bit familiar to many audience members, the only black face – not working – surrounded by white people. Rose’s father Dean (Bradley Whitford), makes every effort to be welcoming and horribly over-compensates at every turn. Intersperse throughout are flickers of something less savory peeking through each smile, glance, and anecdote. The interactions and situations evolve in such a matter-of-fact way that the sheer overtness of the bias on display it’s bitingly humorous and simultaneously uncomfortable. Daniel Kaluuya plays these scenes with a stoicism and wit common to black men in these situations but rarely portrayed on screen. His acting choices bring a tangible sense of irony to a character you can’t help but identify with for multiple reasons.
The refined setting of the family estate is strikingly modern with touches that harken back to days’ past. A grounds man, Walter (Marcus Henderson), doing yard work as the couple pulls into the circular drive. A housekeeper Georgina, (Betty Gabriel), working in the kitchen. Both black people each seemingly stuck in a time gone by, dedicated to their tasks and the Armitage family. Rose’s home and family are all just so very white – so white even she’s forced to admit it.
There’s no way to discuss individual performances without spoiling and that I just won’t do. But it must be said, Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage anchors this movie in the disturbing. Kenner’s scenes with Kaluuya are harrowing and quite possibly the most frightening in the movie. You don’t even realize how unsettled you are until it’s too late to back away. Throughout the weekend, more and more about this family just seems…off. A chance decision to take a nighttime stroll leads Chris even further down the rabbit hole in more ways than one.
Peele draws on racial stereotypes and bias to create an unsettling environment terrifying in its simplicity and commonness. Chris’ friend Rod (LilRel Howery) balances the worrying with injections of bombastic wit and hilarious exchanges that carry their own overtones and implications. Rod isn’t, however, the typical funny but essentially useless sidekick. He smart, intuitive and that friend we’ve all gone to the movie with knowing he’s going to yell at the damn screen. He’s that friend who imparts wisdom in between his tongue-in-cheek narratives. Peele employs all the standard horror movie tropes to unique and thrilling effect. You’ll jump at shadows, twitch at phantoms as the film’s ever-tightening tension sucks you in. You’ll be moved to uneasy laughter as the cast plays your nerves with expertise in an insidious game of cat-and-mouse. You’ll be convinced you’ve figured out the bad guy only to be so very right and still off base.
Releasing Get Out in the wake of irrefutable proof that the “post-racial” era was never anything but a lie, is both timely and telling. The subject matter itself is part and parcel of the scare factor. The movie sounds its warning from the very beginning then proceeds to drive home its point with every sinister twist and turn. This is a thriller deeply aware of what makes it frightening. The characters are smart, the big reveal brash, and the conclusion comical in its outlandishness. The realistic and the surreal work hand and hand to create a riveting thriller. This is one movie you’ll kick yourself for missing.
Get Out opens with Childish Gambino’s – or Donald Glover for the non-hip hop heads among us – song Redbone and if you don’t leave feeling like the lyrics perfectly personify the paranoia inherent in every frame of this movie, you ain’t ready.
I need more than five stars for this one.
Update: After writing this review for sliceofscifi.com, I described this movie as a visual Victor LaValle novel and realized that is exactly the feeling watching this movie triggered. If you’ve never picked up a LaValle novel or novella, then I strongly recommend adding his – Bram Stoker Award finalist and 2016 Nebula Award nominated – novella, The Ballad of Black Tom to your reading list.
I’m pretty sure after you read it you’ll agree Jordan and Victor need to become writing partners and make us some disturbing ass movies.