Jordan Peele, a name synonymous with clever biting commentary on social issues, has stepped into the cinematic ring and delivered a one-two punch that’s more potent than anything audiences have seen in a wide release horror flick in quite some time. Get Out leans a little bit more studio than recent critical darlings such as The Witch or It Follows, but has a punch all its own that rivals some of the best genre films of all time.
Whether or not Peele’s debut feature will stand the test of time is yet to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine something this sharp and witty to get pushed back in the annals of cinema history. No, it’s not just possible, but likely that Get Out is going to be talked about amongst critics and audiences alike for the foreseeable future. Exploring the simple yet all too real awkwardness of an African-American male meeting his Caucasian girlfriend’s parents and the weird stuff going on within the grounds of the family’s sizable estate. From scene one, Peele sets an uneasy yet humorous stage with an intro that features a black male waltzing in a suburban neighborhood at night before befalling something a little spooky. The racial factor is of course not lost on an audience of any race or gender, but is in fact a fear I’m sure we’ve all had walking late at night in unfamiliar territory–the possibility of being stalked by someone with less than noble intentions.
From there, Peele allows the audience to get to know Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a nice guy with an eye for photography as he, a man of color prepares to visit his girlfriend, Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents. We not only get to know Chris, but we develop a knowledge and liking of the playful and caring 5-month relationship between himself and Rose. The use of humor serves mainly to let some of the air out of the growing tension the audience will likely feel right along with Chris. Red flags are abound when they arrive on the grounds as Rose’s dad, Dean (Bradley Whitford) tries way to hard to be hip and Rose’s mom, Missy (Catherine Keener) has an intense interest in hypnotizing Chris to relieve him of his smoking habit. Combined with the fact that the family employs a pair of African-Americans to help care for the property and there is clearly something off about their mannerisms.
From there it is a journey of discovery and the film is anything but conventional in its delivery. Peele tries to hide nothing from the audience and instead just peels back layer upon layer organically. Chris as a character seems to be naturally suspicious and guarded except around Rose who has a way of disarming him when he’s starting to retreat socially–it’s one of the many things that endears you to their relationship and develop concern for Chris’ plight.
With Peele’s background in sketch comedy it’s hard not to approach Get Out with the fear that an inflated runtime will get old. That is not the case here. If anything, once things get going it could be argued that Peele could have afforded to drag certain plot points and events out just a little more. Similarly, there are turns taken that are just fine the way they are, but perhaps could have been tweaked and become even more effective–a subjective observation for sure and a bit too spoilery to elaborate on. The entirety of the film is just so perfectly structured and tightly paced that to nitpick is petty and counterproductive to reacting properly–which is with nothing but enthusiasm for a fresh cinematic voice entering the field of play in the horror genre.
Get Out plays comfortably within the confines of a social thriller, but we’d be splitting hairs to divorce it entirely from horror territory. Although, come awards season it wouldn’t be shocking to see many try to justify recognizing it as anything but horror. Peele’s debut flick is timely, scary and above all else…important. Even if you can’t literally relate or empathize with the protagonist, there’s a lesson to be learned and truth to face for anyone soaking in the hypnotic imagery and acerbic writing. In the end, Get Out tackles some heady, personal issues that are as timely as they are frightening and will be impossible to shake away come end of year.
Beer Recommendation: None at this time. Sorry, nerds.