A directorial debut this competent and effective? Get out of here! [I’ll wait for your applause]
“Get Out” is a horror film from writer/rookie director Jordan Peele (you know, the guy from that terrifying comedy sketch show “Key & Peele”). It stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams as a young interracial couple who go to the strange estate of the woman’s parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford).
I wasn’t a big fan of Peele’s first feature film “Keanu,” which he co-wrote, and the fact he was choosing to make his directorial debut in the horror genre with a film that tackles race relations was ambitious. But I love “Key & Peele” and comedians have a history of being very dark-minded people (it’s what got Michael Keaton cast as Batman and allowed Steve Carrell to have an Oscar-nominated turn in “Foxcatcher”), so I went in hopeful. And while “Get Out” may not be the best horror/comedy ever made, it has some important and topical things to discuss and carries a tense sense around the mysterious manor.
The film I can most compare this to in order to convey the feel is “Cabin in the Woods,” a satirical horror film that also starred Bradley Whitford. It isn’t a straight horror despite some jump scares and it isn’t a comedy even if there are some clever laughs sprinkled throughout, but instead just has a sense about it that is both enjoyable and uncomfortable at the same time.
What this film does almost masterfully, and like I said above what had me worried going in, is how it addresses race relations in 21st century America. Made by an African-American and featuring a black man as our central protagonist, it would have been easy for “Get Out” to completely pander to certain demographics but it is honest and forthcoming in how it tackles certain topics. It doesn’t make white people feel guilty, but it does give an honest portrayal of what black people have to deal with in 21st century America, from interactions with police to older white couples trying to sound relatable to them and only coming across as awkward.
From the opening sequence of the film (which to my knowledge is all one take, always impressive) you know what you’re in for and Peele sets the tone early. When we get onto the family’s large backwoods estate, there is a growing sense of tension and confusion as Peele puts us in the shoes of Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris. There is a constant feel that Chris is in danger and it’s established early that just because things seem warm and inviting on the outside, sometimes people put up fronts.
Now the film isn’t perfect, some people (at least me) will figure out where the plot is going sooner than others and Peele pulls back the curtain of the twist ending a little too soon for his own good. And once the reveal is explained it opens up a box of questions and plot holes that may distract you from what’s happening on screen. And much like “Split” the ending itself doesn’t quite stick the landing to really give it the extra push it needs. Long story short, the film sets up all of its dominos brilliantly but knocks them down in one swoop instead of gracefully letting them fall.
“Get Out” is very competently made, especially from a rookie director. Peele seems to have a grasp on the genre and how to create an atmosphere and build tension, although his narrative writing may need some polishing. The acting and visuals of the film help it as well, and even if the climax may not be satisfying enough for some viewers, sometimes it’s more about the journey not the destination.
Critics Rating: 7/10