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Get Out
★★★★☆
First run Seenmorethanonce Theater cinema Screening room

Jordan Peele (actor, writer, and one half of Key & Peele—the best sketch comedy series of the young millennium) makes a stunning directorial début with the low-budget horror thriller Get Out.  Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams star as Chris and Rose, a young, interracial couple from Brooklyn.  As the story begins, Rose is bringing Chris to meet her parents, in the affluent suburb where she grew up, and Chris is concerned that she hasn’t yet told them that he’s black. Based on everything Peele has done thus far in his career, we might expect this premise to result in an amusing but disposable comedy like Meet the Parents, told from an African-American perspective. But we’d be dead wrong.  Get Out is a horror movie—not a horror movie spoof but a genuinely scary and unsettling horror thriller, through and through. 

Peele, who never even directed sketches for his TV show, delivers scares and intelligent subtext better than most seasoned horror feature directors in recent decades. As both a writer and director, Peele is clearly a student of cinema. Get Out takes inspiration from a wide range of cinematic influences like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Stepford Wives (1975), Halloween (1978), The Shining (1980), and Funny Games (1997)—but it never pays overt homage to any of these pictures. Rather it strikes a chilling tone from the very beginning via adept visual compositions and the slightly odd behavior of each character Chris and Rose encounter. Like the great filmmakers he draws from, Peele interweaves multiple layers of complex social satire, criticism, and elucidation into his narrative. Get Out examines issues of race with the same canny underhanded directness that Rosemary’s Baby scrutinizes gender.

Written and produced during the Obama years, the film exposes the lie that America is in a post-racial era. The racial commentary within Get Out extends far beyond simplistic metaphors by deftly placing the viewer into the mind of the film’s black protagonist. Regardless of our ethnic make-up, we live this story through Chris. And, as with all good horror movies, we understand the main character’s motivations, conflicts, and fears, and connect viscerally and personally with him, while we simultaneously have the heightened awareness that we’re watching a horror movie, and that every warning sign Chris might legitimately dismiss we know should be heeded. In this way, and through the astute use of Chris’s best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery)—ostensibly just the comic relief—Peele also makes sly observations about the black experience of watching horror movies. The title itself, which can be interpreted several ways, may be a reference to an old Eddie Murphy routine about why there are never any horror movies about black people, even though they have historically been one of the most loyal and dependable audiences for this genre.

Get Out is a rare contemporary horror film with a fully satisfying third act. It’s both a shrewd work of political and social satire and a terrific, creepy, bloody, thriller—full of genuine surprises and smart set-ups that pay off handsomely. But perhaps what’s most remarkable is how suburban multiplex audiences of nearly all backgrounds will undoubtedly cheer on the actions of the main character. Peele and his producers don’t hold back in this regard—in fact they delight in the “get whitey!” aesthetic of the climax. And unlike Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012), the white villains of Get Out are not broad caricatures of old southern plantation owners and easy-to-hate slave masters but respectable East Coast liberal elite types who fancy themselves part of the solution to racism rather than indicative of the problem. Incendiary and insightful but most of all wickedly entertaining, Jordan Peele’s first feature is a perfect example of how good genre pictures can often accomplish much more than even the most well intentioned issue drama.

Twitter Capsule:
Peele’s accomplished directorial début is genuinely chilling, insightful, and fun.

Directed by Jordan Peele
Produced by Jordan Peele, Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, and Edward H. Hamm Jr.

Written by Jordan Peele

With: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Keith Stanfield, Stephen Root, and LilRel Howery

Cinematography: Toby Oliver
Editing: Gregory Plotkin
Music: Michael Abels

Runtime: 103 min
Release Date: 24 February 2017
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color