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There’s a moment at the start of Get Out that is reminiscent of Karyn Kusama‘s 2015 The Invitation where a couple are driving along a lonely road on the way to an uncomfortable gathering and hit an animal. In both films, it sets the tone for the film entire, seemingly unrelated but crucial in more ways than one. With Get Out, it is a deer, struck by Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) who is driving upstate to introduce her new boyfriend Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) to her affluent parents.
They are Dean (Bradley Whitford), a renowned surgeon and Missy (Catherine Keener), a successful hypnotherapist. Rose is a little apprehensive bringing her black boyfriend to see her white parents and perhaps justly so as things take on some tension from the start as her mother and father seem happy but a little uncomfortable with Chris, though the black servants, a housekeeper named Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and a groundskeeper named Walter (Marcus Henderson) on the property don’t help, something that Dean explains as being a hold over from when his parents owned the property. Worse, the two’s erratic behavior are a real concern.
Soon after, in a bit of deceit, Missy hypnotizes Chris under the guise of helping him to quit smoking, but instead has him reliving a traumatizing moment of his past, and it puts him off balance well afterward, believing something isn’t quite right with the family, and then soon after, the town, when the annual family get-together grows increasingly bizarre as older white people take great interest in Rose’s boyfriend. It marks a terrifying turn for Chris in what becomes a fight to stay alive.
Directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out is an uncommon horror film, one more interested in the larger message than the immediate impact, a character-driven film that in many ways is a bold step forward for the genre, even with its flaws. Tackling racial issues is nothing new for Peele, who, together with his comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key, compiled an impressive compilation of fiercely funny sketches on the topic for their Comedy Central series Key & Peele. Designed to be unsettling, uncomfortable, and controversial, it is an intriguing piece of work that owes much to its influences while it blazes its own new path.
Going horror for his directorial debut, Peele, who also wrote the screenplay, deftly uses the genre to poke at the issues and works surprisingly well, with the first two acts a delicious slow burn of misdirection and troubling hints that seem innocuous if a bit concerning initially, some that seem jarringly familiar before elevating to some truly distressing back and forths that raise the stakes, culminating in a garden party where Chris meets another black man around his age, married to a white woman thirty years older, his behavior more than a little off putting. When a camera flash sends that man into a freakish seizure where he screams at Chris to get out, we know for sure, that’s exactly what he should do.
But even when the twist does come, it’s a good one, yet Peele switches his energies from social commentary to action and gore, and it loses a bit of its edge, not quite coming together as well as it could, even if the message remains on target. Most of that falls upon some tonal issues, with the film’s only comedy coming from Chris’ best friend, a TSA agent named Rod (LilRel Howery) who is admittedly a very funny actor, but whose scenes strip a bit of the grip out of the experience.
Get Out is a kind of a game changer of sorts, feeling a little transformative for the genre, with Peele injecting a whole layer of tension into the mix that is of a entirely different kind of terror. While it lapses in some key moments as the final act kick in, there’s no denying the potential here, and the larger promise of a new future for Peele as a director is the takeaway.
Movie description: Get Out is a 2017 horror/mystery film about a young African-American man who travels to his Caucasian girlfriend's family home, only to discover things are not so welcoming.
Director(s): Jordan Peele
Actor(s): Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
Genre: Horror, Thriller