GET OUT (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, Bloody Images, and Language including Sexual References

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Written by: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel & Marcus Henderson

Who would have ever expected Jordan Peele to write and direct a horror film? Then, who would expect it to be batshit insane and, also, a classy exercise in slow-burn scares? Color me surprised because GET OUT is pretty great. This strange, sinister horror-comedy is like GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER mixed with a creepy TWILIGHT ZONE episode. The end result is a film that tackles racial issues in an unexpected way, never coming off as too preachy and maintaining the spooky entertainment. This film is a twisted treat for horror fans and those who want to watch something out of the ordinary.

After four months of dating, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is finally going to meet the parents of his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). Chris is concerned because Rose’s folks don’t know that he’s black and he suspects that his race may affect their opinion of him. However, her surgeon father Dean (Bradley Whitford) and psychiatrist mother Missy (Catherine Keener) take an instant liking to Chris…though they seem slightly overbearing in their welcoming nature. Chris soon begins to suspect that not everything is as it seems, because Rose’s family has two strange servants (who happen to be black) and there appears to be something very dark lying underneath the surface of the family’s picture perfect appearance.

GET OUT’s plot purposely shows off a few obvious clues in advance and then wisely subverts expectations through some masterfully executed turns in the narrative. The screenplay doesn’t throw lots of unnecessary red herrings at the audience and instead lets on that something is definitely wrong from the get-go. However, Peele lets the viewer simmer in the stew of awkward tension and creepy build-up before unveiling what that “something” is. This movie functions as a slow-burn for about two-thirds of its running time, but remains compelling the whole way through.

Chris is built up as a sympathetic character and not just because he’s a fish-out-of-water at Rose’s home. We learn more about our on-edge protagonist through small bits of dialogue and revealing moments, making us care even more about him as the film moves along. Daniel Kaluuya (who I mainly knew from BLACK MIRROR’s best episode) is great as a character thrown into a strange situation that becomes stranger with each passing second. Allison Williams is solid as Chris’s girlfriend, who tries to be understanding and also maintains skepticism at some of his claims.

Bradley Whitford injects a bit of quirky humor as Rose’s over-the-top accepting father, while Catherine Keener is downright eerie as Rose’s mother…who also happens to be a hypnotist (to add to the weird factor). Caleb Landry Jones is great as Rose’s menacing brother, who obviously has something violent brewing beneath the surface. Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson are threatening as the black servants of the rich white estate. The film’s major flaw (one that holds it down from being an A in my book) comes from the performance of Lil Rey Howery as Chris’s concerned TSA best friend. His scenes exist to insert light-hearted laughter between the horror, but they don’t always jive well with the material and become downright distracting at points.

GET OUT nails its eerie atmosphere, freaky story and deeper themes. There are a few ways that this film can be read, with some recurring imagery throughout (look out for the deer). Racists have been tackled before in movies. Most of the time they’re Neo-Nazi skinheads (much like the psychos in last year’s GREEN ROOM), but GET OUT tackles racism on the opposite end of the political spectrum. I think this film will ironically be celebrated by SJWs who don’t realize that the scarily-satirical material is a scathing indictment on them. Racism can come from both the right and the left. GET OUT targets the left’s version of racism, without ever becoming too preachy or detracting from the horrific plot at hand.

Besides having loads of tense build-up, clever writing and strong performances, GET OUT also has genuinely frightening scenes and a visceral final third. The last act of this film showcases lots of pay-off to the suspenseful build-up and it’s beyond satisfying. GET OUT’s script really shows off its clever writing by forcing the viewer reevaluate earlier scenes with new context added to them. There are lots of clues that will likely stick out upon repeat viewings and the film’s general vibe echoes deliberately paced 70’s horror cinema…but for modern audiences. If you dig scary movies or want to see something that’s off-the-wall insane, then you should get out to see GET OUT! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Grade: A-

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