A film review by Craig J. Koban March 3, 2017


2017, R, 105 mins.


Daniel Kaluuya as Chris  /  Allison Williams as Rose  /  Catherine Keener as Missy  /  Bradley Whitford as Dean  /  Keith Stanfield as Andre Hayworth  /  Marcus Henderson as Walter

Written and directed by Jordan Peele



A friend of mine asked me the other day to describe GET OUT, to which I very specifically replied that it's like GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER morphed with a nightmarish episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE further merged with THE STEPFORD WIVES.  

Make sense?  

It's an unforgettably weird horror/thriller/comedy from writer/director Jordan Peele, the same man that's fifty per cent of the Comedy Central dynamic duo Key & Peele, whom both previously starred in last year's very funny KEANU.  Marking his directorial debut, Peele is certainly going out to prove himself as a bona fide filmmaking talent right out of the gate that's unafraid of a genre mishmash challenge, and GET OUT most assuredly reinforces that.  It's satirically on point, horrifyingly intense, darkly amusing, and manages to have a considerable amount to say about race relations in America.   

That's an impressively and ambitiously tall order for any novice filmmaker. 

GET OUT contains an initial setup that's as simple, yet effective as they come.  Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a young black man that's been dating his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) for quite some time, and even though they're comfortably in love with one another she has never taken him home to meet her parents.  They decide to venture out of the city and make the pilgrimage to her family home, which is located in a very secluded area that's altogether separated from the rest of the world (when have journeys out to dwellings in the middle of nowhere ever been a good idea in any horror film?).  Allison has demonstrated herself to be a very progressive minded person in Chris' eyes, but he's nevertheless concerned about revealing himself as a African American to what he thinks will be conservative white elitists.  She reassures him and calms his concerns by informing him that her mom and dad would have voted for Obama a third time if they could. 



Everything does seem reassuringly okay when Chris and Allison make it to her childhood home and are both greeted with warm and welcoming arms by her parents Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener).  The first few hours have their share of semi-awkward conversations, but Chris seems mostly convinced that Dean and Missy are noble and considerate people...and then things begin to go south for Chris.  He can't help but notice that Dean has a few black servants at his disposal...and they all seem like they're in some kind of zombiefied trance of hyper congeniality.  They almost seem...programmed into docility.  Chris' weekend takes a bizarre turn for the worse when Missy offers to hypnotize him in order to help combat his smoking addiction, which Chris politely declines.  Yet, Missy's powerfully persuasive hypnosis techniques get the better of Chris...and this is just the beginning of a horrific series of traumatizing events that elevates his paranoia concerning Allison's parents with each new waking minute he's there. 

It would be incredibly foolish for me to dive deeper in this review of GET OUT's overall story trajectory, seeing as that would be engaging in obvious spoilers and ruin the experience of seeing it.  What I can say is that - as far as horror comedies go - Peele takes great subversive delight in crafting a film that taps into race, race relations, and racial tensions and how those tensions manifest and grow into deep seeded suspicions.  GET OUT is sobering and thoughtful as a social commentary piece when it's not a methodically jarring thriller that creates an undulating sensation of dread and unease in viewers.  Even though Peele is trying to tap into Chris' increasingly disturbed psyche as the story progresses and is ultimately about how he feels that his life eventually becomes in absolute peril the longer he spends at his girldfriend's parent's home, GET OUT deals with the universal themes of people feeling uncomfortable in an foreign environment and one in which you feel unwanted or desired.  Part of the ingenious approach of this film is that it doesn't lay its cards out on the table too quickly about Dean and Missy: Are they really despicably evil people that want to perpetrate harm on Chris or are they an affable couple that's wrongfully misunderstood by him? 

In many respects, GET OUT is a patient film that requires and respects the patience in viewers.  It also wags a middle finger at obligatory horror film troupes (during its first two thirds, at least) by paying subtle and sarcastic homage to them without overtly feeling reliant on them.  Peele wisely understands the delicate balancing act his film is engaging in as both a piece of scandalously hysterical satire and a disturbingly grotesque horror flick.  I appreciated the fact that GET OUT is not concerned with blood, gore, violence, and body counts as so many other genre efforts are; it's actually trying to say something about how people relate to and act around each other...and often not for the better.  When the film is not be knee-slappingly funny it's nerve-wracking and nail bitingly suspenseful.  Peele gets tremendous mileage out of Chris' potentially volatile predicament: Is he completely overreacting and engaging in reverse racism by perceiving Dean and Missy as bigoted and dangerous people to black people or is he right to judge them with anxiety plagued apprehension? 

The film is substantially better acted than perhaps it has any business of being.  Daniel Kaluuya has a very tricky role in the sense that he has to be an audience surrogate in terms of relaying the madness that's happening around him that could be tangible or just a figment of an overactive imagination; he's the strong emotional anchor that keeps everything dramatically afloat here.  Whitford and Kenner have perhaps the toughest and most thankless acting challenges in GET OUT, seeing as they have to initially present their respective characters as kind and considerate parents that also happen to have an ethereal aura of menace about them.  Their stellar performances never over telegraphs their true intentions right from the beginning of the film, which allows audience members to become more fully immersed in what's to come next with each new scene.   

GET OUT disappointingly implodes in its final twenty minutes or so, which somewhat undoes its extraordinarily well oiled and executed opening two acts.  The problems with its climax are twofold: Firstly, for as much as Peele is trying to shake up modern horror film conventions throughout GET OUT, he seems to really adhere to them in the third act.  Secondly, the would-be shocking revelations regarding Allison's parents are not altogether as shocking as this film thinks it is.  That, and the narrative devolves into some ultra bizarre detours that makes GET OUT feel more like sensationalistic B-grade science fiction than a hard boiled and gritty psychological thriller.  I can't fault Peele for amping up the bloodshed during the film's final moments, seeing as he displays atypical tact in avoiding violence throughout.  Yet, I feel like he wrote his film into a corner and felt obliged to offer up a grandiose and sinister finale that would further get people talking afterwards.  The build up of GET OUT is superb, but its payoff seems to be cheaply going for raw shock value. 

Still, Peele triumphantly emerges here as a highly adept, risk-taking, and fiendishly clever filmmaker with a bright future ahead of him.  He not only demonstrates a strong technical eye for detail, but he also impeccably knows how to get just the right performances out of his actors.  And as a screenwriter, Peele is trying to lace his film with contemplative ideas that make GET OUT rise well above of the monotonous torture porn horror thrillers that brainlessly inundate viewers with numbing carnage.  The scariest thing in GET OUT is the uneasy sensation of uncertainty that plagues its main African American character as he tries to process his escalating distrust of every white person he comes in contact with.  

If anything, that alone elevates the film to reality based horror.  


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