Brilliantly Quirky Thriller
Noted comic and filmmaker Jordan Peele, of Key and Peele fame, marks his directorial debut with Get Out, a brilliantly quirky little film that bills itself as a speculative thriller. While it is certainly that, it is also tinged with strong elements of horror, comedy, romance, and mystery. Plus, it’s a pregnant social commentary with plenty of uncomfortable things to say about race relations in our current society. Whatever you prefer to call it, Get Out will undeniably leave a nasty mark on your psyche.
Many know Peele from his MadTV days or from his Key and Peele Youtube comedy series that tore up the internet back in 2012. Others got their first introduction in last year’s surprise box-office hit, Keanu. What you may not know about the guy, is that he is a huge horror fan. That really shouldn’t come as a surprise though, since horror and comedy both draw from our need to explore the absurdity of our humanity. And Peele goes to that well early and often in Get Out. His film is like some kind of perverted cross between Rosemary’s Baby, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and oddly enough, Night of the Living Dead... with all of the discomforting aspects of each left totally intact.
Forget about the film’s numerous body blows, things that go bump in the night, and jarring jump scares. Those are certainly plentiful and quite impactful, but Get Out’s true fright and horror comes from what it has to say about racism’s filthy truths and how prevalent they still are in today’s post-racial world. Peele’s career was built on his unique blend of satirical humor as it relates to race relations in America, and with Get Out, he sticks to that same basic script, only this time, instead of creating awkward laughter, racism becomes the ugly monster we all want to avoid.
As the film opens, we meet artsy African-American New York City photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya, Dark Mirror) who is preparing to accompany his caucasian girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, Girls) to finally meet her family -- surgeon father Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), hypnotist mother Missy (Catherine Keener), and drunkard brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) -- who live in upstate New York. Though he’s been assured they are tolerant and liberal-minded people, he nonetheless harbors a certain amount of concern that Rose has yet to inform them he is African-American. But ultimately, he’s cool with it and prepared for whatever may come... or so he thinks.
As soon as he arrives at their rural, suburban estate, Chris begins to suspect that things aren’t quite right with his girlfriend’s folks. Seems the only black people the family knows are groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and house maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel), both of whom are noticed by Chris be slightly amiss. A phone call back home to best friend Rod (LilRel Howery), reveals that several black men have turned up missing in the area, causing his suspicions to quickly turn into full-blown paranoia.
Peele’s seamless tonal shifts and slow reveals remind of us of the way Rosemary’s Baby’s slow burn scared our pants off back in the day. Knowing what to hand feed an audience and what is better left unsaid are some of the finer aspects of great filmmaking and are a tough feat to pull off for a first-time director. But Peele masterfully builds tension with a firm command of so many of those subtle things that rattle deep in our soul. One particular scene involving Rose, a bowl of Froot Loops, and a glass of milk is executed to spine-chilling perfection and is a perfect example of how a film’s more subtle moments can often be its most effective.
Get Out leaves us with an unsettling sense of gnawing unease and a noxious creep that burrows into our souls as its tension slowly unfurls into a bloody finale. There’s either a bit of genius at play or one heck of a lucky first strike at the way Peele so seamlessly pivots from comedy to terror, then back again... all the while, that ugly head of racism snaking its way through the proceedings. Whether you want to call it a comedy, a horror, or a speculative thriller, the effect this thing will leave on you can’t be denied.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “R” for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.)
Review also posted on www.franksreelreviews.com.