Darkly comic and truly terrifying, Jordan Peele's racism-centric comedy is horror for the ages
Social commentary isn’t a foreign concept for horror films, as many of the greatest horror films ever made were made in response to the times they were made in. Surprisingly, for as pervasive of a topic that racism is, there was not a high-profile horror film for the topic before “Get Out.” Perhaps studios were a bit weary of the idea of making films about racism that didn’t involve the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or a group of maids, but the directorial debut of “Key & Peele” star Jordan Peele jumps head on to the subject without any hesitation. Known for primarily working in comedy, the move of having a directorial debut not only go against the genre in which you’re known for, but also tackling a subject many studios find “polarizing” takes even more balls.
But to pull it off takes raw talent, which Peele seems to have loads of.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a young man in New York City with a wonderful life. He has a nice apartment, a cute dog, a loyal best friend in Rod (LilRel Howery) and a loving girlfriend in Rose (Allison Williams). When Rose invites Chris to meet her family in the New York countryside, he is initially hesitant due to her white family being unaware that he is black. After assuring him that her family is not racist, they head to the countryside. Upon arrival, Chris meets Rose’s hypnotist mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), and her overcompensating neurosurgeon father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), as well as her strange brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones). While things get off to a harmless, if uncomfortable start, Chris begins to realize that this white neighborhood might be a bit less welcoming to black people than he initially expected, one that is far more sinister than he could’ve ever imagined.
From the start, “Get Out” already solidifies itself as one of the most effective horror films in recent memory for one reason: it’s an original film. Nowadays, “original film” constitutes anything that isn’t a sequel or a reboot, but “Get Out” is a true example of an original film, as it’s something we’ve never seen before. Sure, a killer in the woods that isn’t Jason Voorhees technically can be considered an original film, but after so many “killer in the woods” films, it’s easy to predict what’s going to happen. Even then, when a good horror film does come around, it’s typically a new twist on an old genre, whether it be witches (“The Witch”), home intruders (“Don’t Breathe”) or artificial intelligence (“Morgan”), it’s always a riff off of a genre that has become tired. This is not the case with “Get Out,” as there has never been a wide release film of this kind before. This makes the film almost shockingly scary, something I didn’t expect the film to really be. I expected the film to be a fun critique on racism in America, and it is, but it’s also an absolutely terrifying film that banks off of its originality, keeping even the most numb of audiences on the edge of their seat, as it’s nearly impossible to guess what’s coming next.
Kaluuya, known mostly for his brief role in Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario,” does great work as Chris, but its the supporting cast that takes the cake in “Get Out.” Both Whitford and Keener make for an almost unsettlingly perfect couple at the start, but evolve into some truly scary people come the film’s final act. As someone who is very white, with a white dad, Whitford hits every little notch on the overcompensating white dad archetype, down to the perfect “I would’ve voted for Obama for a third term if I could’ve” line that has echoed through the chambers of white guiltiness for years and will echo for many years to come. Williams does a nice job as the lovable Rose, while Jones matches nearly every quality of “That Boy” you have in every single one of your classes that is just…off. Though, despite all these good performances, its Howery who steals the show from every person in the film. As Rod, Howery is a charismatic friend who actually proves to be useful in the film beyond the simple comic relief. I found myself constantly wanting to hear his commentary on the events of the film and wishing for him to be even more involved than he is. I see a spinoff in Rod’s future.
“Get Out” is incredibly scary, but it’s also an incredibly funny film, something that I could only expect from the mind of Peele. The beauty of much of the comedy in “Get Out” comes in its understanding of satire, something I find to be less and less prevalent as time goes on. “Get Out” is an incredibly intelligent film that could only come from the mind of someone who has experienced this first hand (Peele is married to comedian Chelsea Peretti, a white woman). The laughs in this film are subtle and brutal, but the comedic observations of the film help to make many of the scares later on even more effective. Unlike something like “The Visit,” Peele is able to combine both comedy and horror into something that is so odd that it works really well.
Still, one of the most impressive parts about “Get Out” has to be Peele’s direction, which feels like a veteran filmmaker who has been directing horror for years. With an almost exlcusively comedic background, his mastery of the horror genre is incredibly impressive. This is an astutely directed film that feels like early M. Night Shyamalan in its execution. This film feels like a novelty that is going to blossom into something much more commonplace in the horror genre once again: actual social commentary in horror.
“Get Out” is an absolutely masterful horror film that is as bitingly funny as it is horrifying. It’s actually shocking that this film is a directorial debut from a comedian and not something from an established horror filmmaker, even more ironic when you consider many “actual horror filmmakers” recent films disappointing. The acting is spectacular and despite whatever you might be talking about after the credits have rolled, there won’t be an audience member who can say they weren’t chilled to the bone at least once. Instead of relying on clichés and other tropes, Peele has crafted something truly original from the first frame to the final shot, and if you think you can guess what’s going to happen in “Get Out,” I’d like to see you try.
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, LilRel Howery, and Catherine Keener.
Runtime: 103 minutes
Rating: R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.
Universal Pictures presents, a Blumhouse/QC Entertainment production, in association with Monkey Paw Productions, a Jordan Peele film, “Get Out”