This may be my first highly-anticipated movie for 2017. When I first saw the trailer for Get Out and that it was credited as a Jordan Peele-directed horror film, my initial reaction was “…what?” Even though the marketing for this film wasn’t exactly stellar (they seem to be advertising it as a more cohesive blend of comedy and horror when it definitely leans far closer to the latter), I was perplexed and excited at the same time by the trailer and the cast lined up for the project. That anticipation was intensified when the reviews started pouring in for this bad boy. As of this writing, the film is currently sitting at a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.3/10 as averaged from 134 critic reviews. This means that all 134 critics gave the movie a ‘positive’ review and not only positive but the scores they gave out averaged to 8.3/10! That’s certainly unprecedented and I wanted to see if it could live up to all that hype.
Pretty young Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) wants to take home her new beau, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her rather eclectic family. While it seems like just an innocent trip to meet the folks as a typical stage in the relationship, all is of course not as it seems as Rose’s parents (Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener) are almost too nice and every one of their friends is way too interested in stereotypical aspects of Chris’ identity. It’s hard to delve into the plot too far without giving a lot away so suffice to say, it gets very weird in an almost Stepford Wives-esque manner with a little bit of Rosemary’s Baby thrown in for good measure.
This film was the directing debut for Jordan Peele (who also wrote it) and he absolutely knocked it out of the park. Peele explained in an interview that there are several elements in comedy and horror that are very similar with minor tweaks to differentiate between the two genres. This is something that becomes readily apparent when watching this movie because it often teeters on the ridiculous but does it in a way that still keeps the tension thick and the scares done in a way that never feels cheap or hackneyed. Peele has consciously avoided bombarding the viewer with ‘boo scares’ or moments when someone jumps out of their seat and then it turns out to be merely a cat. Every moment feels genuine and ‘earned’ and Peele is at his best when slowly building up the suspense throughout the early parts of the movie until he goes all out in a balls-to-the-wall finale that lets it all hang out. I can’t say much about the ending but let’s just say that it is every bit as entertaining as you can imagine and they certainly don’t skimp out on anything.
Peele has also found a very strong lead actor in Daniel Kaluuya. I first saw this man in an episode of Black Mirror called “Fifteen Million Merits” and was impressed by his gravitas and somber performance despite not showcasing a lot of concrete emotions. He is nothing like that character here; Daniel is sarcastic, funny, charming and palpable. We are with him throughout the film as he acts as our guide so we see the world through his eyes. The film falls on his shoulders for the majority of its runtime and he is a big part of why it ultimately succeeds in that regard. Allison Williams gets a bit less to do but she is very believable and her cute chemistry with Kaluuya makes it easy to believe in them as a couple and root for them when the going gets tough.
Bradley Whitford is an underrated actor in Hollywood and I really enjoyed his performance as the father. Whitford knows how to underplay a performance and make it seem creepy without it ever feeling like he’s trying too hard or acting in any other way but authentic. Catherine Keener doesn’t get as much as I would’ve liked but she also holds her own end of the bargain with a quieter subtle performance. Again, hard to give you guys that many details without ruining a good portion of the film. As for the rest of the cast, stand-up comedian Lil Rey Howery does quite well as the best friend/comic relief character and any time he shows up on-screen, it almost gives us a chance to breathe and have a few laughs in a film that can get pretty dark and twisted at times.
Besides the tension and the thrills of this movie, it also succeeds in large part with its social commentary on racism in America. People might be turned off by the idea of ‘message’ movies pushing their agenda too hard in lieu of quality so I will be sure to stress here that it is not the case at all. There is even a great subtle moment near the beginning of the movie where Whitford remarks (after a head-on collision with an unlucky deer) that one more dead deer is a good thing and the way in which he says this along with the uncomfortable reactions for Kaluuya and Williams felt very much akin to how someone would feel in a toxic racist atmosphere. Whitford also proudly boasts that he would have voted for Obama for a third term as if using that as an ‘in’ like so many people have done to vehemently prove that they are not racist while it always just seems like pandering to everyone else. We also see later examples of this as various old white rich guys are asking Kaluuya if “his people are good in bed,” impressing him by talking about Tiger Woods when mentioning golf and basically displaying their ignorance (rather than racism) on full display.
I will refrain from giving anything away and just leave this review at that. It is a tremendous horror/thriller with some terrific social satire, occasional moments of levity, strong performances and a unique approach to the genre which will have you clamouring for more from first-time director Jordan Peele. A very strong debut.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)