Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing to go to the country with his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her parents after four months dating. Her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) seem subtly passive aggressive and overcompensating in their niceness towards Chris. He’s also disturbed by how the few black people in the area are incredibly reserved and abnormal in their behaviour. This and a series of suspicious occurrences soon convince Chris that he is in severe danger.
For a debut film, this is a great first effort for Jordan Peele who though his roots may be in comedy, he definitely has an eye for horror. His direction is clever and he knows how to shoot a scene in the best way to encapsulate a discomforting mood. The writing is also quite good. You get the impression Peele has had more than a few awkward conversations with white people trying to be nice and respectful, as it comes across pretty realistically in this film. The tension in Get Out is great, and the pacing terrific. You know early on something’s amiss, and it allows you to gradually piece together the mystery as things become more threatening for Chris. Never does it lose your investment or its own train of suspense giving it a classic Twilight Zone kind of feel. And though it’s a somewhat slow build, the pay-off is pretty satisfying. Peele creates a claustrophobic atmosphere through unique visuals, and there are even a few good jump scares. The music is quite eerie too, emphasizing African-American culture while the violin screeches both contribute to a creepy mood and hearken back to older horror films.
Daniel Kaluuya’s been on the fringe of Hollywood for a while now and here his performance carries the movie while also proving once again that the best actors are coming from Britain. It’s a versatile performance and completely convincing, selling even the most ridiculous story points. Chris has his own demons and vices, which give his character added depth and more for Kaluuya to work with. And his chemistry with Allison Williams is really good, they make for a likeable couple. Rose is a pretty standard New York millennial character, but Williams performs this well and gets to play with some added dimension as the film goes along. Whitford and Keener are very good as the in-laws you wouldn’t quite trust, Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson are great as the Armitages’ suspicious help, and LaKeith Stanfield has a couple intense moments. Stephen Root is also in this movie in a creepy role, and Lil Row Howery lends some comic relief as Chris’ friend Rod who’s also the audiences’ on-screen representative.
Rod’s comic relief is necessary and with a premise like this, comedy is unavoidable. And while Get Out is no Evil Dead film, it does use its humour well and sparingly. Clearly the movie, like a lot of Key & Peele comedy, is a social satire on race relations, but while there is a degree of expected humour on racial stereotypes, and some aspects of Rod’s character are very cliché, the movie’s also a commentary on liberal attitudes towards race. Rose’s family are in no way stereotypical racists, and she herself is very defensive of Chris when, on the road down, a policeman appears to be profiling him. But there’s something prejudicial in their attitudes regardless. Again it’s that tendency to overcompensate (such as bringing up Jesse Owens) and awkward attempts at communication that make the people who disturb Chris most those who are at least outwardly very accepting. It’s a unique target of political satire in this day and age which I really admire. And the reveal of what’s actually going on in relation to Chris’ ethnicity is at the same time frightening, clever, and funny.
If I had a problem it would be that the ending doesn’t go quite as far as it could. Also a couple story twists are fairly predictable.
Nevertheless Get Out is a pretty remarkable horror movie. It’s not particularly novel or ground-breaking in its style, but it’s much more effective than its premise would suggest with some genuinely good scares and well-built suspense, as well as good performances, strong satire, and great direction from someone completely new to the genre. The idea that rising comedy star Jordan Peele could make a legitimate horror movie a few years ago would have sounded as absurd as Louie C.K. writing an action thriller. But subverting expectations is a key component in comedy, so therefore, Get Out being really good may be Jordan Peele’s best joke.