Whenever a creative talent gets associated with a particular form, it’s hard to picture them trying to jump into a different area without some issues coming up. Jordan Peele has been associated with comedy for so long, particularly with Keegan-Michael Key from their time on Mad TV and Key & Peele through last year’s Keanu, that it seemed easy to assume that his directorial debut, Get Out, would be less of a horror film and more of a comedy – a potentially biting one, but a comedy nonetheless.
Instead, Get Out is a film that can’t be easily slotted as either a comedy or a horror film. It moves between the two, shifting from increasingly unnerving scenes to moments of tension-reliving laughter. All the while, it presents some needed social commentary on race relations that feel more necessary than ever.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is heading out of town with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents over the weekend, a meeting he’s apprehensive about after discovering that she’s neglected to mention that he’s black. When they arrive, though, Rose’s family seems pretty normal. Her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), tries to show his social awareness. Her brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) is a bit more likely to say things that are vaguely racist. It’s Rose’s mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), though, who gives Chris a bad feeling. There’s also the matter of the groundskeeper (Marcus Henderson) and maid (Betty Gabriel) being black that makes Chris feel a bit uneasy. As the weekend progresses, though, Chris learns that his unease isn’t enough to prepare him for what this weekend has in store.
Get Out plays with formulas that any casual fan of horror films will recognize, and filters them through current issues that give a different weight to the way they unfold. Take the opening scene, which follows a young black man (Lakeith Stanfield) walking through a suburban neighborhood late at night. A white car appears out of nowhere and begins to follow him, which prompts the man to turn and walk the other way. “Nope. Not today,” he says to himself. “You know how they like to do motherfuckers out here.” Not that that’s enough to save him.
As much as traditional horror tropes pop up over the course of the film, though, it’s the little bits of racist statements and actions that Chris encounters over the film that highlight a different sort of horror that’s more in tune with reality. Comments about voting for Obama for a third term shift easily to comments about the bodies of black men, to assumptions about sexual prowess and other forms of so-called admiration that, at a minimum, perpetuate stereotypes. In Chris’ case, they devolve into something more alarming.
To say more would spoil the film, and I don’t want to do that, because there are some surprises the film offers that audiences should get to experience. Suffice it to say: if you like horror films, go see this. If you don’t like horror films, but this film has caught your attention, go see it. With its well-balanced blend of horror and comedy, Get Out is a thoroughly rewarding experience that needs to be seen.