“Do they know I’m black?” young Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) asks his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) before going to meet her parents for a weekend in the suburbs. So begins the film Get Out (2017), the directorial debut of well-known comedian Jordan Peele.
Indeed, as the film proper begins, if not for the hype of Get Out (which, as I will get to, is well-deserved), one might mistake this film for a modern-day socially conscious commentary on race in the vein of Stanley Kramer’s 1967 film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
For much of Get Out‘s runtime, it could well be exactly that. Chris is met by a large group of wealthy suburban white people who are remarkably polite if curious about and somewhat patronizing toward this young man in the mixed relationship. He is proudly told about Rose’s parents’ support for Barack Obama and is often asked about the African American experience. As writer and director, Peele handles these moments so skillfully that the audience feels that discomfort and passive racism that few films successfully have been able to capture. In some ways, things seem so subtly personal that they might even be semi-autobiographical.
However, Get Out was made by Blumhouse Productions, the studio behind Split, Insidious, Sinister, The Purge, and Paranormal Activity. If that doesn’t hint to you that this is a horror film, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. There’s something deeper and more disturbing about the suburbanites’ interest in young Chris. Rose’s parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) slowly begin to seem creepier and creepier as Chris becomes less and less comfortable in his surroundings. The repeated question of what is going on (if anything) and who might be involved is a constant source of discomposure and suspense.
Peele skillfully balances these questions with the existing nervousness that Chris already feels. In this way, the horror could conceivably be a satire of such a fish-out-of-water situation and perhaps Chris is imagining much of this and feeling overly anxious. For much of the film, the audience is not sure what really is true and the revelation is gripping, surprising, and disturbing in many ways.
What you’ve heard the film is true, Get Out: is a masterfully done horror film that builds its chilling menace slowly and does not reveal itself until it’s too late to resist. Further, Peele seems conscious of horror clichés and avoids them wherever he can. In those very moments when the audience will be thinking “get out”, so will Chris. When the audience is uncertain of who to trust, so is Chris. The logic and careful construction of Get Out adds to the overall realism and excitement of this unique film of terror.
The first Blu-ray release of Get Out is appropriately rich in extras that show how proud the cast and crew behind this film truly are of it. With a feature commentary, promotional materials, a documentary, and a Q&A with Peele and the cast, a great many of the answers fans are looking for will be found. The disc also includes a number of deleted scenes and several variations on Peele’s alternative ending. These excised parts give more depth to the film, but also speak for themselves about why they were not ultimately included. Furthermore, Peele’s (optional) commentary explains his rationale for their removal or replacement. There’s little question that the best version of Get Out is the official release, but the thought process of getting it to that final release is brilliant to look at.
Special mention should be made to the acting in this fine film. Kaluuya is British but affects an American accent flawlessly. He also gives us a wide range of emotions that practically force us to be swept up in his journey. Williams proves to be a canny significant other for Kaluuya and is believable in her own concerns for her boyfriend. Veteran actor Stephen Root joins Keener and Whitford as another wealthy man who takes an extremely friendly and respectful interest in Chris but might (or might not) just have something sinister going on behind his eyes.
Get Out has a unique and challenging premise with an ending that’s surprising, but also uniquely disturbing. Its merits as a socially conscious commentary on race can similarly not be underestimated. That said, Peele is so skillful in the writing and directing of this work that Get Out never feels “preachy” or heavy-handed. At all times, this is a skillful horror film that is remarkably worth watching.
Much has been made about Peele becoming the first African American writer/director to pass the $100 million mark at the box office with a debut film. Luckily, this is no mere hype or, at least, that hype is deserved. The fact that this film is both successful and high quality is not just a marketing tagline. This is a feather in the cap of Peele and a shining example of how artists can break free of genre and make excellent films that are also box office successes.
Can an African American foray into a white-dominated area and come out on top? Writer/ Director Jordan Peele did just that.