Get Out Review

Horror tension, mystery tension and racial tension blend together into a gripping and formidable nail-biter in “Get Out,” the astonishing directorial debut of Jordan Peele. The former half of the comedy duo “Key & Peele” has found a way to both honor and subvert the thriller and horror genres in a way that’s unmistakably modern.

In the tradition of “The Stepford Wives” with the twist of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?,” the story follows a young black man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who goes to meet his girlfriend, Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents at their fancy estate where things go from slightly uncomfortable in terms of Chris being black to deeply messed up in one slow but inevitable fell swoop.

With a creepy opening scene showing a different black man getting abducted in a peaceful-seeming suburb, the tone is set immediately that there’s cause for concern. Luckily for Chris, Rose is really sensitive to issues of race and prejudice, and even when her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) or brother (Caleb Landry Jones) seem to make Chris’ blackness into a thing, the two handle it as best as any interracial couple could. The warning signs come in the form of the Armitage family’s black help, maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson), whose behavior is anything but normal.

Peele sets a tone of creepiness largely with the help of composer Michael Abels, also making his feature film debut. The unpredictable nature of Georgina and Walter as characters, the ever-increasing suspicion of all the white characters and the way Peele keeps you nervous about who or what is just outside the frame fuel the fear and paranoia as well as if not better than any horror movie featuring more overtly malevolent forces does.


Kaluuya, in a role that will deservedly put him on the map, gives a performance that will connect with viewers who identify with Chris as a man trying to feel comfortable while out of his element experiencing strange things, and those who truly understand Chris’ experience as a man of color undergoing the very same events. It would be fascinating to know the different ways a black viewer would experience the film compared to a white one, but the most important thing is that everyone will identify with and feel for Chris.

When a little horror film debut like this one gets talents such as Whitford, Keener and Williams, you know the script is good. Peele keeps up the air of mystery a long time even without packing in very many unexpected twists. The awareness of something being wrong but not quite understanding what it going on or why despite getting new information is a real strength of Peele’s writing. Then of course there’s the brilliant ways that race and the black experience make it into the film. If that weren’t enough, Chris’ best friend (LilRel Howry) provides comic relief in a way that’s stereotypical, yet Peele uses him in unexpected ways. So we get to benefit from Peele’s nose for comedy as well.

Not everything adds up by the end of “Get Out,” but the film plays out in extremely satisfying fashion. Fans of horror and fans of thrillers who don’t mind horror when it’s done well should both enjoy the technique and experience. It provides thrills of the pulse-pounding, thrill-seeking and thought-provoking variety and few genre films can say the same.

 

4.5/5 Stars

 

Get Out
Written and Directed by Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, LilRel Howry

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