Wow. Who would have thought that Jordan Peele, one half of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele, would not only be a fantastic auteur, but would make his directorial debut with a horror film of all things. And make no mistake: Get Out is awesome. Not only is it a sharp and biting satire of how race functions in modern America, but it is a damn effective horror film to boot. If this is where Peele is starting as a director, his filmmaking career is going to be nothing short of brilliant.
Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man, goes with his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) on a weekend getaway to visit Rose’s family. Upon his arrival, he copes with the casual racism that any black person must when travelling within white society, but there’s something a bit off about this suburban community and its residents. In particular, the few black people on the Armitage estate function as servants and have unnatural demeanors that betray something a little sinister. Rose’s mom (Catherine Keener) is a psychotherapist specializing in hypnosis, and Chris begins to suspect that there may be something more to what’s going on than meets the eye.
What we have here is basically a riff on The Stepford Wives, but instead of marital domesticity, Get Out is primarily about race relations and how racism lies buried under a veneer of kindness and false platitudes. It’s a smart concept that is only helped by Peele’s keen writing and directorial eye, which effectively communicates to the audience Chris’s unease without ever having to spell it out—whether it’s because of how he is so casually dehumanized or the bizarre mystery that enshrouds this community. Remarkably, this doesn’t veer into full-on comedy except in a subplot revolving around Chris’s best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) investigating the disappearance of a black friend in New York, but even then the comedy and horror don’t tonally clash as they explore the same thematic depths.
And as a horror film, this is one of the best to come out in recent years, at least so far as mainstream releases are concerned. There exists an omnipresent dread throughout the film, accentuated through extreme close-ups and perspective-bending cinematography that is always in your face but doesn’t beat you over the head with how uncomfortable you should be feeling, instead never letting you slip back into a sense of ease. Subtlety isn’t the name of the game, but Get Out has no intentions at pretending to be subtle. Jump scares are thankfully few and far between, and by the time what is really going on in this supposedly sleepy suburb comes to light, you’ll be so disgusted and fascinated that the ramifications and allegorical meaning of the revelation will leave you stewing.
I have no complaints with Get Out. It’s about as smart as the horror genre gets, and with such a sharp satirical edge, those who believe that racial equality is a reality in America are sure to be up in arms over how deep this film cuts. It’s an achievement on a textual, metatextual, and subtextual level that is effectively a roadmap for filmmakers trying to build a political message into their genre fiction. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Jordan Peele does next.