Get Out is a film all about defying your expectations. As early as the film’s haunting-yet-funny opening scene you think you have what’s going on nailed down. You think it’s going to be a film about a bunch of racist white people creating extremely awkward situations for Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) until it all comes to a head towards the three-quarter mark. I was really happy to find that everything isn’t exactly what it seems, and ultimately that the film that Jordan Peele has created around a premise of discomfort is a tense and genuinely frightening ride from start to finish.
The magic of Get Out is that its premise sounds exactly like a “Key and Peele” sketch. Chris’ white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) is taking her black boyfriend home to her rich parents’ house for the weekend. She thinks it’ll be fine, he obviously has some concerns. They arrive and cue a weekend of being grilled by her Dad, Dean (Bradley Whitford), who uncomfortably tries to come off hip and happenin’ and facing her Mom’s trying-too-hard smile which is always on the verge of cracking.
Chris holds his own for a while, he even manages to stay calm when Rose’s brother Jeremy drunkenly throws some blatantly racist comments around and tries to put him in a headlock. But the horror element starts with the Armitage’s house keepers Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson). Chris feels like he can level with them and figure out what’s going on behind the scenes, but he quickly learns that’s not the case. When Chris sneaks outside in the middle of the night for a smoke, Georgina is standing in the window admiring herself in the reflection. Even weirder is Walter running at full speed around the perimeter of the Armitage’s estate, almost running Chris over. Finally, as Chris expertly states, their off-putting weirdness doesn’t come from “what they say but how they say it.” They speak with a bizarre southern accent and big goofy grin plastered across their face.
The shot work in Get Out is visually stunning. Rose’s mom, Missy (Catherine Keener), is a hypnotist, and once she catches Chris in one of her trances, he’s sent to “the sunken place” within his mind. Watching him drown in a sea of black, screaming out through the CRT TV that his eyes have become left me unable to look away, and when the camera cuts to Chris’ face, tears streaming down his cheeks, the genuine sense of dread I felt was totally unique to this film.Michael Abel’s score is also incredible. Its acoustic guitar and heavy bass beats come in hard and do a lot to push feelings of dread and really up the intensity during the action-oriented moments.
With all of these great dread-inducing scenes, I was pretty bummed out about the fact that Get Out is full of dumb jump scares. The first couple are fine as they come at moments when the awkwardness is making you squirm in your seat, but they get really stale and overall feel unnecessary as the film goes on. Luckily, most of them are followed up by some hilarious jokes. Comic relief is exactly what a movie like Get Out needs, and Jordan Peele hasn’t lost his edge one bit. Chris’ friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) specifically has some of the funniest moments in the film. He’s convinced from the start that Chris is going to be kidnapped and turned into a sex slave for the rich white people, and when things start to go South he’s happy to come in with a loud “I told you so!” before showing concern for his buddy.
If you’ve seen “Key & Peel’s” “White Zombies” sketch, or any of their sketches that comment on racism before, you’ll already have a pretty good idea of how Peele approaches it in Get Out. It’s a subtle accidental condescending tone that so many of the people talking to Chris take that shows they genuinely don’t understand they’re being racist. It makes you cringe in your seat and even after the film’s big reveal, it’s not cheapened at all. The entire time you’re watching Chris straddle the line between impressing his girlfriend’s parents and their friends and throwing a hard punch to the jaw in frustration. Somehow he manages to stay on the “impress her parents” side of the line during Rose’s parents big party with all their friends. A swathe of rich white guests, and one Asian man, force Chris to do weird things like show off his golf stance while they squeeze his arms in awe. When things finally do come to a head, it feels earned, justified and honestly great.
Even though horror isn’t completely new to Peele, Get Out is more than just a great foray into the genre. It’s a tense and provocative horror film that makes you conscious of real world problems while also delivering on some of the creepiest and most disturbing scenes in recent years. Hopefully this isn’t a one-time experiment for Jordan Peele, because he shows true talent and originality that horror fans crave.