An African American man goes to a bourgeoisie neighborhood with his caucasian girlfriend to meet her parents. By all appearances the family is amiable, but under all the faux civility, the pleasant suburbia holds a dark secret.
When I first heard about this film I was quite skeptical. A horror film? Thought I, from Jordan Peele? No way…
I am a fan of Key & Peele- Peele’s sketch comedy collaboration with Keegan-Michael Key (“The Predator”) but sketch comedy and horror features are two very different beasts. Still, intrigued, I followed the film’s buzz through production, and was utterly surprised when Academy Award Nominee Catherine Keener (“Synecdoche New York”) signed on as one of the stars. Soon the film hit theatres and reviews began to roll in. Critics had spoken: “Get Out” was one of the most poignant and provocative horror/thrillers in years. My original feelings of skepticism had morphed into a need to see this film. Did it live up to my now-high expectations?
It surpassed them.
We open on a suburban neighborhood where Andre (Lakeith Stanfield, “Sorry to Bother You”) walks down the well-lit street alone. He’s talking to his girlfriend on the phone, complaining about how he sticks out in this neighborhood like a sore thumb. A sports car passes him, turns round and begins to tail him, from its stereo drifts the relatively creepy 1939 song “Run Rabbit Run” by Flanagan and Allen. Andre mutters expletives under his breath, then turns on his heel and begins marching the other way. “Not today. Not me,” he says, then casts a nervous glance over his shoulder, only to find the car’s driver side door ajar. A man wearing a medieval helmet attacks Andre, rendering him unconscious. His limp form is dragged towards the car, where the masked man, completely visible on the streetlight-illuminated road, shoves Andre’s body into the trunk.
Cut to photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, “Sicario”, forthcoming “Black Panther”) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, HBO’s “Girls”) getting ready to visit Rose’s family for the weekend. Chris is nervous that her parents won't like him, simply because he’s black. Allison reassures him, telling him that her family is very progressive- “My dad would’ve voted for Obama a third term.” Chris still has doubts, which are further stoked by a phone call from his friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery, forthcoming “Uncle Drew”).
After arriving at the capacious, meticulously manicured home, Chris meets Rose’s parents, Walter (Bradley Whitford, “The Post”) and Missy Armitage (Keener). Walter is good humored and friendly neurosurgeon. He offers to show Chris around the house and almost immediately tells him he would’ve voted for Obama a third term, given the chance. Chris smiles politely and nods; he’s used to this type of behavior. As Walter and Chris make their way into the kitchen, Chris is a little disturbed to find Georgina (Betty Gabriel, “The Purge: Election Year”), a black housemaid standing there, smiling pleasantly, almost vacantly, at him. Walter says that years ago his parents had hired her and (also black) groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson, “Django Unchained”), and he’d feel bad letting them go. Georgina stiffly says hello. Again, Chris smiles, but he begins to feel as if something is slightly out of place here.
That night, Rose’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones, “Heaven Knows What”), arrives in time for dinner. As the night progresses, it’s revealed that the Armitages are having their annual party the next day, and that many guests will be there. After a bit too much to drink, Jeremy brings up MMA fighting to Chris, saying that he comes from good “stock.” Again, Chris shakes off the inappropriate comments with gracious finesse, but alone with Rose he grins and says that he told her so.
That night, craving a cigarette and unable to sleep, Chris goes outside just to get some air. Standing in the darkness, smack dab in the middle of the Armitage’s gorgeous garden, Chris sees Georgina inside behaving strangely. He turns his attention back to the yard, only to see Walter charging right towards him. At the last moment the man breaks away and runs in a different direction. Startled, Chris returns inside to find Missy sitting in the living room. She’s a hypnotist, and she offers to hypnotize him to curb his cravings for cigarettes. He declines, but then something strange happens and he awakens the next morning- the morning of the Armitage's party- believing that Missy hypnotized him without his consent.
No further plot details will be discussed in this review, but from there, events escalate quickly.
This film is all about the shifting face of racism. Unfortunately, some people will always be idiots and as a result we still have the KKK, White Nationalists, Neonazis and various other hate groups, but by and large, most people with fully functioning brains (even half a brain) agree that those groups should be shunned, and any ‘support’ they offer, should be immediately disavowed (ahem). We no longer have slavery, Jim Crow is dead, but racism is still rampant in our society. It doesn’t look like it used to, but it is still there. This film takes a very real look at what that looks like.
This film will be remembered for the way that it touches on modern racism. It succeeds in forcing viewers to think about their own relationships with people of other races. It’s timeliness and subtlety truly makes this film stand out; in my opinion, that’s the main reason this thriller is generating a ton of awards buzz. It is an incredibly well made film, one that might bring horror pictures back into the Oscar spotlight.
As a horror film, this movie is not incredibly scary, but it does provide some thrills and the ending is incredibly satisfying. As a film in general, it succeeds on almost every level, especially as a social commentary. Jordan Peele has signed a contract with Universal to direct another social thriller; the currently untitled movie is due on March 15, 2019, and I for one look forward to it with rapt anticipation.
Jordan Peele succeeded in making a horror film that makes as much (if not more) of a comment on racism than George A Romero’s classic, “Night of the Living Dead”. It’s rare that we get horror films with this much brains, rarer still that a film goes out of its way to break so many genre constructs. While the film is not as scary as other great contemporaries like “The Witch”, “It Follows” or “Raw”, it is better than them as a whole. My guess is that we’ll see Peele get his first nomination for either writing or directing this year, and while I doubt he'll win, the nomination (should he get it) would be well deserved.
Nominations for this year’s Oscars will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd.
Update: Jordan Peele was nominated for Writing, Directing, and Best Picture, and he won for writing.
Review Written By: