It’s difficult to tell what’s more shocking about “Get Out”: the brilliant racial satire disguised as horror or the fact that this multi-layered piece of filmmaking genius comes from Jordan Peele, half of the Comedy Central stars known as Key & Peele.
If Peele ever decides to bail on comedy (fingers crossed he doesn’t), it’s safe to assume that this first-time director has nowhere to go but up. Working from a script he claims was inspired by the 2008 Presidential election, Peele brilliantly skewers every racial stereotype and aims to make every audience member (mostly white folks) as uncomfortable as possible with all theater chair squirming happening far before the bloody, ghastly conclusion.
Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a smart, successful photographer who has been dating Rose (Allison Williams) for four months. It’s about time for Chris to meet Rose’s parents, who she has neglected to tell that Chris is black. When Chris brings this up, Rose assures him that her uber-liberal parents won’t have a problem with it by saying that her dad “would have voted for Obama a third time”, as if that’s a racism cure-all.
From the second that Chris is in Rose’s parent’s house, things are amiss. Her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), tells Chris an anecdote about his own father racing Jesse Owens while her psychiatrist mom, Missy (Catherine Keener), offers to hypnotize him to help him quit smoking. Rose’s clearly unstable brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), asks Chris if he’s into MMA fighting and claims that with his “genetic makeup”, he could be “a beast.”
In an effort to up the discomfort factor, Dean and Missy’s houseworkers are two exceptionally odd black people, Georgina and Walter (Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson), who freak Chris out every time he sees them. There’s a scene in which Chris sneaks outside for a smoke and these two are just as creepy as Rose’s family.
Since Peele has already tackled blind racism and the ugliness of indentured servitude, why stop there? He puts Chris in the middle of a party where every attendee is an old white person who treat him like a zoo exhibit. They pepper him with unbelievably racist questions, all with smiles on their faces as if they are saying “Look how racist I’m not.”
Going any further with what’s in store for Chris would ruin the second half of “Get Out”, which is truly shocking and directed with flair for maximum thrills. There is no doubt that Peele has studied horror and his eye for unique jumpy scares and slow-burn terror is on full display. It’s truly hard to believe that this is his first time directing a full-length film and one scene is flat-out Kubrick-like, down to the set design and camera angles.
But horror almost takes a backseat to the inspired greatness of Peele’s screenplay. He’s managed to create something that isn’t offensive or insulting, but filled with harsh truth. Comedy also gets involved in “Get Out”, with nearly all of it supplied by Chris’ best friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery). Peele even throws in some stereotyping with Rod, as he shouts warnings like “Don’t go in that house!” or “I told you so!” to Chris.
The actors involved all put in top notch performances, with Jones in particular being full out crazy in a “Clockwork Orange” kind of way. Peele has given Daniel Kaluuya a meaty role filled with nuance and depth which perfectly translates to screen. By the hour mark, everyone should be ready to scream the film’s title at Kaluuya and his calmness and overall screen presence makes it impossible not to root for him.
If anything, the only flaw in “Get Out” is that Peele has almost too much to say. One particularly emotional moment is edited in with perhaps the freakiest moment of the movie and it lessens the impact of each. In time, Peele will learn that some things need to stand on their own, but there is no doubt that this is a filmmaker ready for greatness.
“Get Out” is satire tricked up as horror or vice versa. While modern schlock horror goes for gore and cheap, uninspired scares, Peele has created a throw back to when all horror was meant as social commentary. This debut is so fantastic that it should be tough to not eagerly anticipate what Jordan Peele does next.