When comedian and horror-fan Jordan Peele wrote and directed his own scary movie, I was not sure what to expect. Get Out looks like a horror movie spin on Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? but instead offers a fun, incisive mixture of horror and humor.
In Get Out, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) sets out with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to spend a weekend at her parents’ remote estate. Because he is black and she is white, Chris is nervous to meet Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener). Despite Rose’s reassurances that her parents are not racist, the weekend gets off to an awkward start, especially once Rose’s aggressive, eccentric brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), arrives. Meanwhile, the family’s black groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson), and maid, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) are acting strange, putting Chris on edge. When Chris starts to suspect that Missy hypnotized him and he gets stuck attending the family’s annual hoity-toity garden party, his friend Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), a gutsy TSA agent, does his best to save his friend from what he thinks is a devious plot to brainwash and trap young black men. The truth, however, is far stranger and more sinister than Chris or Rod suspect.
Walking in, I was not quite sure what to expect from Get Out. Based on the trailers, I couldn’t tell if it was going to be an interesting, edgy film or the type of bad horror movie that usually gets dumped on audiences after awards season starts. At points, the movie feels like a modern take on a Twilight Zone episode. Once I thought I had the plot figured out, the story would turn with a surprise that made sense and felt earned, but also jacked up the tension further. Get Out is less scary than I thought it would be, and funnier than I expected. It also has less overt racial critique than I anticipated, but still manages to lampoon some of the racist things people can say and do while still swearing that they’re not racist. In sum, Get Out pairs witty critique, silly humor, and some good scares in a plot that has great twists without going too far with them. I was delighted, even though I walked out a little befuddled by the experience.
Visually, Get Out does a lot with implied violence and jump scares, so it is scary without being too gory for someone like me, who is put-off by the torture and graphic violence a lot of contemporary horror movies feature. It also uses flashbacks and fantasy in ways that seem a little retro, without coming off as dated or cheesy. Compared with the stark, pristine, neutrality of the Armitage estate, the sound design works to ratchet up the tension, especially in scenes between Chris and Missy. Both in the visuals and in the sounds, the film takes ordinary objects and makes them unsettling, which is one of my favorite tricks that a scary movie can play.
Most of the performances in Get Out are fairly one note, building in subtle shades of maliciousness under what could otherwise be perceived as politeness. I suspect pulling these characters off was harder than it looked. In the lead role, Daniel Kaluuya impressively moves between suave, grieved, scared, and angry. Because he is the fish out of water, most of the plot and the emotional stakes rest on his character and he carries the movie well. While not quite as complicated, Allison Williams plays Rose’s shifts between protective of her boyfriend and of her family well. As Georgina, Betty Gabriel has one of the creepiest smiles I’ve ever seen.
For its interesting plot and solid mixture of horror and humor, I rate Get Out 4/5 stars.
Get Out was written and directed by Jordan Peele. It runs 1 hour 43 minutes and is rated R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.
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