It’s always impressive to watch a movie from a filmmaker who understands exactly the kind of movie he wants to make. Writer and director Jordan Peele hits a homerun with his first feature. “Get Out” is an absolute gem of a scary movie that achieves a perfect balance between horrifying and humorous. It’s a never-takes-itself-too-seriously crowd-pleaser that easily rivals first outings from directors like Tarantino, Wes Craven and Steven Soderbergh. The movie maintains a strong sense of self and articulates Peele’s creative voice as a filmmaker.
It might feel like a lot of accolades for a movie that is, at its heart, a film taking a very simple concept and turning it on its head. The story is basically “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with a wicked twist I very much doubt anyone will see coming. There are some incredible, reality-defying moments, in a movie that is very much rooted in our current cultural climate.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) are preparing for a weekend trip home. Rose hasn’t told her family Chris is black, which causes him to be a little nervous about how everyone will react. Rose assures him her family won’t mind—and the two head out into the rural country for a weekend of fun and frivolity. Initially, Chris’ fears are abated. Rose’s father (the amazing Bradley Whitford) is a corny, slightly too-eager jokester who could easily embarrass the most hardened teenager. Her mother (Catherine Keener) is a kind therapist who eagerly welcomes Chris into their home.
There are a couple of things askew at the household—mainly two black servants who cater to the family’s needs. Chris’ interactions with them are strained and awkward. They both act and talk like brainwashed cult members. Rose keeps assuring Chris everything is fine, but the longer the weekend goes on, the more he becomes convinced something funny is going on with her family. His concerns about social drama are soon replaced by a genuine fear he might not make it through the weekend alive.
“Get Out” has so many wonderful twists and turns, so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. The film deftly maneuvers between audience expectations and an insane story that unfolds before them. Jordan Peele is a smart guy, and he uses a very basic awkward scenario to set up one of the craziest survival thrillers ever. The inherent pressure of Rose and Chris’ interracial relationship provides so much opportunity for both tension and comedy. The audience starts with so many predetermined ideas as to what could be happening behind the scenes. There are moments where they might think they know what’s going to happen, but Peele takes a hard-left turn into “holy hell!” territory. It’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at someone’s racist grandmother’s house.
This is the best thing to happen to scary movies since “Cabin in the Woods” played fast and loose with genre conventions. Peele has delivered a feature equally smart, and manages to feel strikingly new by using an age-old plot. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, “Get Out” could have devolved into something stupid or utterly forgettable. There are few movies I recall can manage effectively to tickle my funny bone and cerebellum simultaneously. There’s a scene near the end that really showcases the genius on display. A scenario had the entire audience shouting, “Oh no!”—everyone was convinced they knew what was about to happen. Then, to their surprise, it doesn’t. So the crowd bursts into spontaneous applause. Moments like this aren’t produced by luck, but are carefully crafted chords of symphonic culmination.
“Get Out” proves there is still creative wiggle room with scary movies and potential for artistry still exists in the oft-maligned medium. This movie will get inside folks’ heads and have a great time pushing their buttons.