Jordan Peele of Key and Peele fame has written and directed one of the sliest, funniest, most uncomfortable horror films I’ve seen in a long time. Not a traditional horror film, but horrifying nevertheless; Get Out has moxie, smarts and a winking irreverent eye. Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a black photographer, whose white girlfriend, Rose Armitage, of four months convinces him to leave the city and visit her white liberal, affluent parents in the country. Rose is played by Allison Williams of Girls fame. As they pack for the weekend, Chris asks Rose if her parents know he is black. She assures him that it doesn’t matter, her parents are liberal and not racist at all. She remarks that her father would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have.
This is exactly what her father a neurosurgeon, played by Bradley Whitford, says when they arrive at the well-appointed large house. It is both cute and awkward, but the cuteness soon gives way to all awkwardness as the weekend progresses and Chris meets more and more of the Armitage’s friends, not to mention the strange black gardener and maid. Rose’s mother is no less strange and is played by the earthy, maternal Catherine Keneer. Her good intentions always seem to be just under a veil of weirdness. The atmosphere goes from “Stepford Wives” to something much more frightening. This takes a while, and those looking for quick fixes and jump scares may find themselves getting antsy through the creepy middle, but stick around the film has a fantastic last third.
Part racial satire, sci-fi/horror mash-up and dark comedy, Get Out is wildly ambitious and a whole lot of fun. Creating an uncomfortable world of barely believable mounting racism, Peele’s deft writing implies that all white people are a little racist and complicit in perpetuating racism and all black people tolerate a certain amount of racism as they are so painfully used to it. As a clueless and inevitably sinister white person makes a remark about American black stereotypes that makes you squirm, you realize how believable the remark is, even though it is ridiculous at the same time. This conceit is what makes the film so powerful and interesting.
As Chris realizes the extent of the diabolical plans for him, the white people seem to become physically whiter. Rose’s skin becomes so white it is practically transparent. Lit harshly and dressed in white she begins to resemble a milky automaton. Perhaps a visual metaphor for how racism is automatic and part of every white person’s ancestry in America. Along with this idea, there seems to be a throwback to some of the imperialistic ideas of slavery; serving the white man is not only the duty of black people; it’s something that black people like to do.
If you are looking for a quick mindless thrill, you should check out a different film. Get Out is a revelation and reinvents the horror genre. Peele is enormously talented and he obviously has cut his satiric teeth over the years. It’s difficult to believe that this is his feature film debut as a director. All performances are sharp and Kaluuya is especially good as the man who finds himself in a nightmare with no way out.