If Jordan Peele’s time as co-creator of Key & Peele has proven anything, it’s that he has a firm grasp on intelligent comedy. His debut film Get Out just further goes to show that he has the tightest grasp on blending comedy with a scathing social critique. Evident in his shorts (especially the horror sketches common in Key & Peele) Peele knows how to walk the fine line between subversive comedy and horror. Get Out is what happens when Peele takes what could have just been funny and turns it into something truly terrifying. As race relations continue to boil in real life, Get Out aims to highlight the tension through a more positive, but ultimately more creepy perspective. And guess what? It does it almost perfectly.
When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African American man, visits his Caucasian girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams), family for the weekend, he expects the worst. Except his version of the worst is that her white family will not approve of their daughter’s boyfriend being black. Get Out is beyond simple racism. Chris has no idea how accepting Rose’s family will be–and that’s what makes the film creepy. There’s an underlying level of racism that isn’t initially obvious. Rose’s Dad, played by Bradley Whitford, starts talking in slang the moment Chris shows up, and Rose’s Mom (Catherine Keener), is a hypnotist that is keen on trying to rid Chris of his addiction to cigarettes. They’re helpful and want to be friendly with Chris.
It is reminiscent of The Stepford Wives and the hospitality that the suburban thriller emits which never lets up on the creep factor and holds its darkest secrets close to its chest. In fact, Get Out only really begins the uncomfortable tension when Chris sees two house servants at the family estate, both of which are black and seem to always stare at him with a cold look. Issues of slavery and racism are quickly alleviated by the family as “not really what it looks like”. In fact, looks are deceiving is also a fair consensus to come out of the film with for various reasons.
The movie opens with a scene of tension that serves as an excellent introduction to the tone of the film, but compounded with an early jump scare. Get Out feels like it might just be the typical thriller everyone would expect. It’s once Chris gets to the family house that the tone begins to land smoothly. It wouldn’t be enough for the film to just be tense though and while there is an unnerving score to create a matching soundscape, it is the stunning use of silence that truly gets under the skin. Combined with sounds seeping into Chris’s head, the film is a marvel just to listen to, let alone watch.
Here is where Get Out is a film worth studying over and over again: its use of horror as comedy. Peele has no problem emulating a sketch from Key & Peele, but that simply wouldn’t fit in a film like this. Not in its original form. Instead, he has scenes like a black man giving a handshake instead of an offered fistbump, or one of the house servants just staring out of a window creepily. The sound editing is on-point for scenes like the latter, but it is the self-awareness of the situation that elevates it to humorous. Just another example of subversion at its finest.
My only gripe with the film is it often conveys similar information in a redundant manner. Without going into too much detail, the movie is often repeating its racism in very overt ways. It’s not to say that the audience is dumb, but that the ending of the film requires a lot of work from the screenplay in order to make it have its impact. Redundancy is the easiest way to bring the twist into the light, but it comes at a cost of slowing things down for the sake of impact later on. But really, that is the only area where the film slips and even then, it’s a graceful slip that has them back on their feet in relatively no time at all.
I wish I could just break into more of why this is a near-perfect thriller, but much of what makes Get Out work is revealed in its third act. Everything is connected and tied together tightly, with a sense of something grander, just like how last year’s well-received The Invitation left audiences. This is its own personal story and while it does leave itself open to sequels it also could remain isolated as its own social and racial critique. Best watched in a theater packed with an audience, Get Out is an achievement in assured directing that sets Peele above most first-time horror directors because he taps into something real – and for some, too real – but delivers it with a conviction and confidence that helps carry the film to its finish.