First Word: My expectations for Get Out were actually quite low. I thought the preview was bizarre and the script would be heavy-handed and predictable, but I was wrong. In Jordan Peele’s directorial debut he gives us a well written and well acted film that defied my expectations.
Synopsis/Story: As the title suggests, Get Out is as direct and confrontational as it is suggestive. Writer-director Jordan Peele – of TV sketch-comedy series “Key and Peele” – exhibits significant ambition with his behind-the-camera debut, a horror film in which a young black man meets his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and finds his unease with the situation to be entirely, terrifyingly founded. Perhaps that’s an understatement. It’s definitely not a spoiler, because as soon as Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) arrives at the Armitage estate early in the film, the ambience is strange. The camera stands at a distance as Rose (Allison Williams) introduces him to her mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), and father, Dean (Bradley Whitford) on the front porch of their mansion. It slowly zooms out until the family’s groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson), a black man of bizarre, almost robotic behavior, is in the frame, his back to the lens, his presence casting a sinister pall on a banal scene. Of course, it goes much deeper than Chris initially worries. While packing their bags for the weekend trip, Rose reveals that she hasn’t told her family that her new boyfriend is black. He replies, “I just don’t want to be chased off the lawn with a shotgun.” If only it were so simple. Once the narrative settles into its mischievous and malevolent story arc, Peele begins ticking a checklist of ominous clues: That weirdo Walter. Missy is a hypnotist. Dean is a neurosurgeon. Rose’s disheveled and overbearing brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), arrives with unexplained bruises on his face. The house is isolated in the woods. Oh, right, it also happens to be the weekend that Rose’s white parents invite all their white friends over for an annual party. Peele’s screenplay is electrically charged with racial commentary and the type of slyly satirical comedy that makes us laugh frequently and nervously. Get Out opens with a scene in which a black man walks through a white-picket-fence, manicured-lawn neighborhood – “creepy” is his descriptor of choice – and is stalked by a shadowy figure driving a white Porsche, establishing a reverse-stereotype theme that’s both funny and socially relevant. When Dean gives his daughter’s differently skin-colored beau a tour of the home, he uses the words “culture” and “privilege” with understated provocation, Peele deploying such contextual buzzwords with the clear intention of stoking the coals of modern American racial discourse. 9/10
Characterization: My biggest trepidation with Get Out was it would make caricatures out of real situations. Jordan Peele embraces difficult themes with eases. Chris is a believable protagonist and his character is the beneficiary of an incredible performance by Daniel Kaluuya. Rose is spectacular as Missy and Dean. The characters in this film are given the chance to develop and have actual arcs which makes the climax of this film even more impactful. 8/10
Cinematography: It is not often I am completely taken back by the way a small budget “horror” film is shot. However Jordan Peele had some amazing shots in this film. The way he created suspense visually is absolutely incredible. I would share some of the shots I find absolutely incredible but the truth is you need to see this movie. 9/10
Conclusion: Get Out nestles into similar territory as recent auteur horror films “It Follows” and “The Witch,” which transcend the genre by blending classical dread and shocks with comedy and/or big ideas. Peele also is inspired by all the right stuff – the something’s-not-right vibe of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives,” the insularity and eerie choral soundtrack cues of “Suspiria,” nods to “Psycho” taxidermy and “Deliverance” banjo plucking. He also mixes in elements of broad comedy not too far removed from “Key and Peele,” mostly in the form of Chris’ best pal Rod (LilRel Howery), who amusingly and crassly theorizes that Rose’s family kidnaps black men to be sex slaves. (My broad assessment of horror films: If they don’t make us laugh, intentionally or unintentionally, they’re most likely not worth watching.) With strong visual sense and even stronger writing, Peele keeps us off-kilter, approaching the material from odd angles, challenging us to ruminate on racial paranoia and the idea of social comfort zones. He deploys red herrings that, at first blush, seem like frivolous comedy or atmospherics. But chasing them further may lead us back into the theater for a second viewing, for greater appreciation of a smart, provocative film.
Final Score: 8.7