Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
Yesterday was the premier of Jordan Peele’s new horror film Get Out, and if you do one thing this month–if you do one thing this year–do yourself a favor and see this film.
Get Out begins with a young photographer named Chris (the excellent Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose as they prepare for a trip to her parents house. It’s Chris’ first time meeting Rose’s parents and he’s a bit apprehensive. You see, Rose hasn’t mentioned to her parents that Chris is black. Rose doesn’t think this is a problem. Chris isn’t so sure.
After an eventful drive to the estate, the young couple are given a warm welcome into the Armitage family home. Rose’s psychiatrist mother (the suspiciously warm Catherine Keener) and brain surgeon father (Bradley Whitford in an awkwardly exuberant performance) are exactly what you’d expect from rich white parents–eager to share their advice and show their open-mindedness. When it comes up that Chris is a smoker and trying to quit, Rose’s father suggests that his wife hypnotize him. When the subject of race is on the table, Rose’s father is happy to announce that he would have voted for Obama for a third term.
Things turn from awkward to eerie as Chris meets more of the characters living in this world. The Armitage’s black housekeeper and groundskeeper both speak with extreme white affectation. Rose’s brother is uncomfortably aggressive and preoccupied with Chris’ “genetic makeup.” But things get truly weird when the guests to the annual Armitage party arrive. They are comically rich preposterously kind. It’s as if, in Chris’ words, they have never meet a back person that didn’t work for them.
From here Get Out takes you on an unpredictable journey that is equal parts terrifying and hilarious.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a triumph. His impressive mixture of wide, off-center shots, visual comedy, and throw-back horror imagery seem more like the work of a seasoned professional than a newcomer. Instead of jump scares, what terrifies for most of Get Out is the visuals sans information.
Chris stands outside the Armitage estate at night, looking into the distance, when a dark figure emerges running at full speed. First it’s confusing, then it’s upsetting, then it’s downright alarming. What’s even more unsettling is the broken expectation that follows.
Peele’s love of the horror genre sings in every moment of the film, mixing influences like Night of the Living Dead, The Stepford Wives, and Halloween into his film without ever directly referencing them.
And yet, Peele uses his film for more than just scares. He takes this opportunity to cleverly place his audience inside the experience of living in a black body. It’s a constant part of the conversation, even when everyone around you is aggressively pretending that it’s not. When the main character is thrust into a situation where survival should be the only thing on his and the audience’s mind, we are reminded that it can’t be. Because no matter how horrifying the circumstances might be, the cavalry we all hope will come along likely won’t be the saviors we’re expecting.
With 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, I had high hopes for Get Out, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, this film has every chance of becoming a modern classic for the horror genre.