By Andrew Haas
When I first heard that Jordan Peele of Key & Peele fame was writing and directing a horror film, I didn’t know what to expect. I have always been a fan of his comedy work with Keegan-Michael Key, but could his comedic talents transfer to a different genre? As a pleasant surprise, I realized not only that they could, but that they could bring in brilliant commentary as well.
In the film, Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, is a black man visiting the family estate of his white girlfriend, Rose, played by Allison Williams, for the weekend. While the parents act friendly towards Chris, he eventually begins to suspect something unusual about the people around him.
While the horror element is prevalent, what makes this film stand out is its dark satire on racial relations. The film takes the relatable situation of being the one minority in a crowd and adds an element of suspense. With this premise, I normally expect the old white folks to be heavily judgemental and bigoted toward Chris. Instead, when the couple gets to the house, the parents seem totally fine with Chris’s ethnicity, to an almost uncomfortable degree. And that’s where the element of eeriness comes from. The people he comes across talk in a progressive manner, but there’s always a sense of something hiding behind all the compliments, and this is bound to make Chris and the audience feel uneasy. To say anymore about it would be giving away some major reveals that bring the scenario to disturbing new levels.
There are also other little touches that add to the fear. One of the creepiest scenes in the movie is when Chris talks with the mother, who says she knows a trick to help people with their issues. Again without going into heavy detail, the scene starts out more relaxed, almost like a therapy session. Chris talks about an event that happened to him while the mother listens. As the conversation continues, something becomes more noticeable and all comfort slowly disappears for Chris. Kaluuya’s performance shines here as he starts out casually talking with this woman, only to express despair and fear by the end. This is a perfect use of acting, editing, and atmosphere to create such a chilling moment that certainly made me feel unsafe. And there are still plenty more moments that play with such uncertain and unsettling concepts.
With that said, if all of this was taken as seriously as most horror films would, the commentary would likely come off as pretentious. Luckily, Peele is smart enough to bring his humor in whenever necessary. The comedy in this film is often used for a couple reasons. One is to bring out the characters’ personalities through their interactions. The other is to bring some levity, sometimes pointing out the messed-up nature of these events. This is most common in scenes involving Chris’s friend Rod, played by Lil Rel Howery, a TSA Officer whose consistently funny reactions are at times likely not too far off from what the audience is thinking. The great thing about the humor is that, with maybe a couple exceptions, it never feels like it’s hijacking the film’s genre. It fits in naturally with the world and if anything, the light moments just make the dark moments even scarier.
Overall, Get Out is a great blend of effective horror, black comedy, and social commentary that hasn’t been done this well in a long time. Is it one of the best horror film in years? I’m not entirely sure if I would go that far, but I’m still highly impressed by how clever and well made the movie is. For his first film as writer and director, I’d say Jordan Peele has proven he is talented beyond his comedy skills, and I hope he continues to create works as good as this. This is definitely a film worth seeing, though it’s best to experience it knowing as little as possible going in.