Get Out marks Jordan Peele’s — known for his role in the phenomenal sketch comedy Key and Peele — feature length directorial debut. It’s shocking how well he does as he writes and directs this excellent film. It was clear from his comedy that Peele was talented, but his transition from one side of the camera to the other is flawless. Get Out opens with a young Black man (credited as Keith Stanfield, now going by Lakeith Stanfield) walking down the street in a hedge-filled suburb, quipping to someone on the other end of his phone that he “sticks out like a sore thumb.” A car passes him driving in the opposite direction and he tenses but keeps walking. The car makes a u-turn, and the camera swings around with it, following the car while simultaneously framing Stanfield’s face in the center of the shot. It’s technically dazzling, and puts the audience in the head of the character as he reacts. The people in my packed early screening collectively gasped. The dread was palpable before the opening credits had rolled.
The credit sequence skipped us forward to the main character — Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) — getting ready for a weekend trip with his caucasian girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) in the suburbs. Chris is, understandably, nervous, asking Rose, “Do they know I’m Black?” Which is perfect, because it establishes early on that Get Out is a movie about race as much as it’s a horror movie. Once Chris and Rose get to her family’s home, Peele dials up the racial tension, showing Dean commit a series of microaggressions against Chris, until Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) joins them for dinner and pushes into outright aggression.
These scenes are incredibly well acted, especially by Kaluuya. He pauses when asked racist questions, and opening and closing his mouth as he tries to begin, making his listeners wait before he finally breaks the silence. This builds more tension, while also showing the character’s internal struggle. He needs to be nice to Rose’s family if he’s to keep dating her, but the things they’re saying are hurting him. Jones is also notably excellent, in the danger he exudes. His cocky swagger elevates his barely speaking character into a malevolent presence. Peele also elicits great performances from Williams, Whitfield, and Keener, not to mention Lil Rel Howery, who is hysterically funny as Rod.
The wonderful thing about the discomfort that builds with Dean telling Chris that he would “vote for Obama a third time if he could,” is that even though it isn’t traditional horror, it sends the audience into the same heightened state. Combined with a downright creepy atmosphere from Black housekeepers Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Hudson) imbuing themselves with an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style emptiness, the movie explodes when the jump scares start. Peele is dialing up the audience with racial tension, priming them for when the horror take over.
And for a movie that is at times legitimately scary, Peele’s comedic side is right there too. The audience was laughing when they weren’t holding their breath or screaming. It’s not surprising. Both horror and comedy function by building atmosphere and subverting expectations. Peele clearly has a handle on those things.
The movie is well built structurally, too. Everything Peele puts into the inventory of this story — jokes, tics, props, etc. — comes back in meaningful and surprising ways. There are quite a few shocks, but they come with a forehead slapping “of course.” While the audience didn’t predict what was coming next, the minute it happened they saw how it had been set up.
Get Out gives nods to multiple horror staples in fascinating ways. There’s the already mentioned Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the influence of classics like Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and I Spit on Your Grave there as well. It falls into the same emotional school as The Babadook because it works with metaphor — what I interpreted to be that of appropriation and while the horror is there, the metaphor is the point.
Get Out is an excellent horror movie and an excellent addressing of the appropriation of black culture. He gets great performances out of every member of his main cast. The atmosphere starts out creepy and gets increasingly moreso as the movie goes on. There are scares enough for everyone, and a final sequence that will blow you away. This movie is worth the ten or fifteen dollars you will pay to see it. Get out and see it. (I couldn’t help myself).
WICKED RATING: 9/10
Director: Jordan Peele
Writers: Jordan Peele
Stars: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
Studio/ Production Co: Blumhouse Productions, QC Entertainment
Budget: $4.5 million
Release date: February 24th, 2017
Length: 105 min