Written and directed by Jordan Peele of “Key and Peele” fame, “Get Out” is the directorial debut from the sketch show comedian. Peele seems to have done his horror homework because his first feature achieves what many movies in the genre fail to do; create an atmosphere of tension that doesn’t rely on jump-scares to unsettle the audience. This is the type of horror movie that I revel in, the kind that hints and nudges you from thinking “That’s kinda creepy..” and transforms into “Get out man! Just get outta there!” by the time the third act rolls around. I prefer psychological horror or thrillers more than the stereotypes of the genre that movies like “Paranormal Activity” or “Saw” suggest. To each their own though, my favorite horror film is still “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. “Get Out” is more of a blend of horror and comedy, but the comedy is used to great effect when the story needs it. Particularly from Rod Williams (Milton ‘Lil Rel’ Howery) Chris’ good friend and TSA agent who he frequently calls for a voice of reason, and a good laugh.
Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris Washington, a young photographer whose in a relationship with Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) and is about to head off to her parents house in the wealthy secluded suburbs. Chris is a little anxious while packing, Rose prods and he reveals his unease about the potential for racial tension, he asks, “do they know I’m black?” She paws off the comment saying that her parents aren’t racist, just friendly and awkward, forewarning Chris that her dad would have voted for Obama for a third time if he had the opportunity. He accepts that and is soon met on their doorstep with an amicable “We’re huggers!” from Rose’s father Dean (Bradley Whitford) and her mother Missy (Catherine Keener). In fact other than a few curiously worded statements from Rose’s father about his near genocidal hatred of deer and his father losing a spot on the 1936 Olympics team to Jesse Owens, (who famously won four gold medals in track and field and subsequently marring Hitler’s propaganda about the supposed greatness of the Ayran race) everything seemed well enough. That is, until he spots the other two black people on the property, Walter the groundskeeper (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina the maid in the house (Betty Gabriel).
Mood and feeling permeate the remainder of the plot as “Get Out” plays with our expectations and is measured in its pace, allowing us to become equally unsettled alongside Chris. Things ultimately ratchet up in intensity once Missy Armitage suggests trying her method of hypnosis to cure Chris’ “nasty little habit” of smoking. The film holds no blatant twists per se, things unfold at a clip where the true intentions of the Armitage clan are revealed in due time. I’ll leave the rest to be discovered upon watching, but it is a fascinating pairing of clever race relation anxieties and something a bit more… cerebral. What I loved about the film is how Peele has taken inspired cues from classics of the creepy variety to create something new and original. “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”, “Rosemary’s baby”, “The Stepford Wives”, “Misery”, and “The Shining” have all been referenced by Peele in interviews when asked about his influences and where he draws inspiration from and “Get out” is that much better for having the patience to shoot the film the way he did. He even noted that the original intent of the film when he wrote it was to make a point to prove that just because we elected a black man for president twice, the country wasn’t in some fairy-tale version of a post racial society. Hard to argue against that reality now, isn’t it?
Final Score: 1 Neurosurgeon, 1 hypnotist, and 1 dead deer