Director – Jordan Peele
Cast – Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, LilRel Howery
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
For the last decade or so I have been quite vocal (in person) about my dislike for movie trailers these days. To me, they give away too much information, especially as they get closer to the release date. With horror films, they ruin some scares that would have hit harder had I not already known they were coming. I am saying this because in the case of Get Out, this is exactly why I gave this film a watch. When the initial trailer hit I wasn’t that interested. The flick looked like it had a Twilight Zone-y feel, which was all that interested me. My friends were gawking at this being Jordan Peele’s debut film, but I am unaware of his work so that was irrelevant to me. About a month ago the trailers started to give away a lot more to the film, and it was then that my interest started to peak. This wasn’t simply a Twilight Zone / Stepford Wives type flick anymore. I could see that it was going to have the punch that horror has lacked lately (perhaps because people can’t handle it these days), and that it would be scarier than my initial anticipations. After giving this a watch I can say that this is one hell of a debut horror film (and film in general) for a guy without a background in the genre. It is full-frontal and doesn’t shy away from anything. This includes its race-oriented subject matter that Peele used to his full advantage by making you uncomfortable. I am glad to see a horror film like this not only achieve a wide release, but also do well financially, finishing atop the box office. With a story that gives a fresh breathe to some old fashioned horror norms, Get Out is an experience I suggest to all.
After five months of dating, the black Chris and his white girlfriend Rose have reached the point in their relationship where it’s time to meet the girl’s parents. As a black man, he isn’t expecting the warmest of welcomes from his girlfriend’s rich upstate NY family. Much to his surprise, their hospitality is overwhelming. As the weekend goes on Chris begins to suspect that their over-the-top accommodations for him are part of a sinister plan. Sure enough, he’s right.
Jordan Peele, who both writes and directs the film, struck gold with this story. In a day and age where remakes and rehashed ideas drown out the original content seen on the big screen, I applaud Peele for giving us something unique. Sure it is inspired by some notable efforts of decades past, like Night of the Living Dead and The Stepford Wives, but I cannot say I have ever seen a film like this. Peele’s clever story finds ways to mess with the viewer. He uses misdirection (which isn’t unveiled as misdirection until the end of the film) and dupes the viewer with classic clichés used in clever fashion. He begins by setting up our leads, Chris and Rose. Chris is naturally cautious about meeting the parents of his white girlfriend, as race still plays a factor in how generations treat each other. Rose comforts him by saying that her dad would have voted a third time for Obama if he could. Of course, Chris knows that doesn’t equate to him being ok with his daughter having a black boyfriend. Chris’ concerns are immediately put to bed when he meets Rose’s family. It is obvious they are trying way too hard to make this not be awkward for him, and in doing so they make this very awkward for him. You get the feeling that something isn’t right, but racism can’t be a favor with white liberal America, right? These aren’t Klansmen or neo-Nazis, and Peele uses that to his advantage in pointing out that racial discrepancies are alive and well within left-leaning folks too. His use of race is what gives this flick its luster, and I have seen numerous articles about the messages it sends. That really isn’t my purpose here, as my main concern is the horror over anything else. Can race be directly tied to horror? Absolutely, as you’ll see when Chris realizes the magnitude of the situation he’s in. Not only is he in over his head, but being around a bunch of rich white folks with blacks as housekeepers paints an unsettling picture for a guy in his shoes. Trust me, you’ll put yourself in his shoes. Because of this, Get Out leaves a lasting impression and you’ll be talking about the film for days to come.
With Peele’s background in comedy you can expect him to throw in plenty of laughs. For me, I laughed at maybe half of them, with the clever audience play making me laugh over the simpler jokes provided by Chris’ friend Rod – the obvious attempt at comic relief. The comedy blends well with the horror, never detracting from it and forcing the horror into the backseat. I was glad to see that this isn’t a 50/50 blend of horror and comedy. This is truly a horror film, with the comedy serving to compliment it.
When friends and cohorts ask me what I think of this film I have found myself giving everyone the same response, “It’s good. I liked it, but didn’t love it like everyone else.”. Get Out succeeds in nearly every fashion, yet I walked out wishing there had been something more to it. Maybe an additional protagonist for Chris to enlist help from, or maybe better execution of the twist you’ll see coming. I tried to not go into this experience with such high expectations after seeing constant stellar reviews, so that could be a factor as well.
Peele’s direction is superb and expertly brings his story to life. His use of the film’s characters is what sucks you in during the long developmental period (about 50 minutes), and you won’t notice it took that long for the story to take its sinister turn. The casting of Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Skins) was perfect in that he fit well with Peele’s lead, who is a black man but not an overly athletic person who would maybe stand a fighting chance if things get hectic. They do get hectic, and his struggles feel real. A photographer, Chris is definitely more of a lover than a fighter, which I found to be a good thing here. Imagine if Kaluuya had the build of Marvel’s Luke Cage. I’d actually still love it, but I wouldn’t feel as much fear for him. The powerless situations Chris is faced with leave you squirming in your seat. The tension resulting from this is a result of Peele immersing you into the film and allowing you to put yourself in his shoes. Kaluuya’s performance sells this as well, and we see his character go through some emotional extremes. There is relief, joy, pain, and anger exhibited by his character and he handles each emotion in convincing fashion. Allison Williams (Girls) was fine in her role, although her character isn’t pushed as much despite being a lead. In fact, she is more of a supporting character. Her parents, portrayed by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford, were excellent and Peele wrote their characters to provide more to the story than his girlfriend Alex. Speaking of more to the story, there is a lot more to the horror than what I have spoken of. I really don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’ll just say that the conspiracy and the nature of the kills will surely please horror fans.
Overall, Get Out is a fantastic horror film that I suggest to all. Not only does it give us a rarity in an original storyline, but it is delivered in an expertly written and directed package that’ll leave you glad you saw this in theaters.