Director/Writer: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Lakeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, Stephen Root, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel
I would never have thought funnyman Jordan Peele would have turned to the horror genre for his directorial debut. He’s best known as one half of the Comedy Central duo Key and Peele. After their show ended, they released the cat action comedy Keanu last year, and now Peele is flying solo. There’s that old myth that the black guy always dies in a scary movie, and Peele is shifting that around with Get Out. Girls star Allison Williams stars as Rose Armitage who is excited to take her boyfriend, Chris (Kaluuya), home to meet her parents and brother. He feels a bit worried, as she hasn’t broken the news to them that she’s dating a black man. Rose doesn’t feel a concern in the world as she states they are extremely welcoming and that her dad, Dean (Whitford), would have voted for Obama a third time. Rose’s parents have a picture perfect estate nestled in the woods. Dean is a bit abrasive to Chris at first, while her mom, Missy (Keener), is quieter and introspective. She’s basically studying his demeanor and behavior due to her work as a psychiatrist and hypnotist. Chris happens to notice that they have a maid and a groundskeeper who both happen to be black.
Rose tries to remind him that it will be a lovely weekend, but he has his guard up. There’s something off about the maid and groundskeeper. They appear to be doing their jobs, but they have a wide-eyed, zombie-like disposition where they’re not all together with it. The weekend carries on with the Armitage family hosting an outdoor party. All of the guests are white, rich, and lavish. The sole black partygoer is around Chris’s age and also appears to be in this alternative state of mind. Chris can’t help shake that there is something deeply wrong with this family and their friends. His best friend, Rod (Howery), works as a TSA agent and starts to dig deeper into this mystery when Chris finds himself trapped in the Armitage’s house.
Within the opening sequence, you can easily tell that Jordan Peele has a knack for directing horror. It opens in that dark and quiet suburban neighborhood. It was very reminiscent of Halloween in that sense, including the use of hedges. It’s very suspenseful and eerie without relying on cheap tricks. It sets the stage for what’s to come as it shifts to the introduction of Rose and Chris’s relationship. Peele takes his time with a nice build up with the characters and the relationship within the family. He remembers that in order for scary movies to be effective you have to care about the characters. He gives it that slow burn effect as the suspenseful moments build up to a grand finale. So much of the movie relies on Chris’s growing suspicion, and Peele knows how to keep him teetering on the edge of sanity. I never felt like it was pummeled with obnoxious jump scares or blood and guts as a way of being scary. Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson are creepy enough as the maid and groundskeeper, respectively. They have some evil death stares while keeping a Pollyanna grin on their face at times.
What you normally don’t find in horror films, especially of late, is a social commentary. Jordan Peele adds a fair amount of racial dialogue and satire in the film when Chris realizes the mental state and behavior of the other black characters in juxtaposition of the extremely privileged white community present. As the dad, Bradley Whitford tries to acknowledge it but passes it off as pure irony. The party guests all have a certain “reaffirming” way of speaking to Chris where think they’re being polite, but it’s all comes out incorrectly. Race isn’t the only hot topic as I felt a connection to Scientology given Catherine Keener’s profession as a psychiatrist and hypnotist. Not to get too spoilery here but brain washing comes into play with Kenner going into the subconscious of Chris’s mind.
The films boasts a perfectly cast family. Williams is not nearly as annoying as her Girls character Marnie can be. Whitford and Keener are clearly having a barrel of fun as Mom and Dad. This is the first time I’ve seen British actor Daniel Kaluuya, and he can easily pull of the paranoid aspects of Chris. Jordan Peele doesn’t fully drop his comedic side and cast Lil Rel Howery in the comedic sidekick role of the film. Howerey brings out just enough laughs at the expense of what’s going on with the situation and how seriously he takes his job as a TSA agent.
Get Out is impressive move for Jordan Peele has he continues on in his post Key and Peele career. I’ve already seen two pathetic genre movies this year with The Bye Bye Man and Rings. Peele stays clear of their issues as he’s a smart writer and doesn’t try too hard to make it scary. There are pacing issues that become evident with its slow burn nature. This will no doubt become an issue in the current age where scary movies need to move at lightning speed. I can only assume Peele will work on this as his directing career takes off. He’s written in some good laughs like I mentioned earlier, but the balance between laughter and screams isn’t as consistent as it is in films like Scream and Shaun of the Dead. The film comes with that third act twist that is often found smart horror movies. It makes sense if you’re putting the puzzle pieces together like Chris is. By the end, the audience was cheering and applauding. That certainly didn’t happen with Rings. I’m looking forward to seeing Jordan Peele take on these genre-bending types of movies. I’ll gladly sign up for more funny-scary movies from him.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Horror fans looking for something fresh and exciting will get a kick out of Get Out.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS