The marketplace is loaded with horror films that either subvert or indulge in genre conventions, but Get Out does both with a clever audacity that’s both invigorating and thought-provoking.
Despite a few jump scares, this assured feature directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele is more subtle and subdued than traditional horror — a clever balance of subversive frights and social commentary that still manages to keep you guessing.
After a startling opener that sets an appropriate tone, the film settles into the story of Rose (Allison Williams), who is planning to introduce her new boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), to her parents during a weekend at the family’s rural estate. She assures him that because he’s black, and she’s white, it won’t cause any friction.
Upon arrival, preconceived notions on both sides yield some awkwardness with the outspoken dad (Bradley Whitford), the hypnotist mom (Catherine Keener) and the loose-cannon brother (Caleb Landry Jones), with Chris feeling especially uneasy after meeting a black maid and gardener who act strangely.
The discomfort escalates during a party with some family friends, when a bizarre encounter with a familiar face from his past (Lakeith Stanfield) leads Chris to suspect some more sinister intentions behind his visit that may or may not be racially motivated.
Get Out gradually builds suspense with its lighthearted yet provocative examination of racial tensions, achieved through an adept recombination of familiar elements with regard to relationship dynamics.
It’s a stylish and well-crafted genre exercise with a concept that isn’t exactly original. Horror aficionados can get their fill of random weirdness and creepy twists. Still, while the narrative logic isn’t completely immune to scrutiny, the film’s character-driven texture helps to overcome some of the more forced or formulaic aspects.
Peele’s script tweaks perceptions and stereotypes, as well as mainstream expectations, in ways that are both funny and unsettling. Given the involvement of a filmmaker who is best known for his comedic background, most of the material is played with a straight face.
British actor Kaluuya (Sicario) brings depth to the lead role, which acts as the audience’s window into the family secrets that drive the plot, especially in the final act. However, even in its more standard conclusion, there’s plenty going on beneath the surface.
Rated R, 104 minutes.