A few years ago, the horror genre was having a bit of an identity crisis. Its thrills and chills lacked the originality that made the genre so popular, and it was dangerously growing close to becoming an afterthought for moviegoers. However, things started to improve with the rise of smart, innovative independent filmmakers taking an interest in the genre who wanted to use the unique darkness of horror films to explore deeper themes. These socially relevant pictures paved the way for “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s (“Key and Peele”) new psychological nightmare that has more to say than most prestige dramas hitting the screens these days.
Equal parts creepy suburban thriller and brilliantly biting social commentary, “Get Out” follows photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, “Sicario”) as he takes a trip with girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams, “Girls”) to meet her wealthy family. Chris’s fears that Rose’s white family will racially profile him become all too real when their nervous, casual racism seems to veil a much more sinister system of beliefs.
The intelligence of Peele’s script comes from its winking knowledge of how real life racism operates. While many may believe racial discrimination is a thing of the past in more educated, liberal parts of the country (a recurring joke highlights how the family patriarch wished to vote Obama in for a third term), the film deftly portrays the blissful ignorance that still fuels the specter of racism today. Peele, no stranger to satire, puts his comedy skills to work here while still staying true to the horror elements necessary to the plot. He creates a darkly funny world in which all the players are purposely insane caricatures. All characters feel well-defined in their roles, serving as wittily designed symbols of modern stereotypes, ranging from a wild lacrosse bro to an obedient yet unhinged maid.
The performances sell the insanity, with Kaluuya in particular being a smart choice for the lead role. He serves as the cool center to the film but still brings a quiet intensity that makes the character’s emotions believable and raw. He is the perfect character for Peele to subject to the villains’ special brand of racism: he doesn’t embody any modern cinematic stereotypes surrounding black characters, yet he is a victim of them anyway. This system and Kaluuya’s performance make the film’s proceedings all the more poignant.
Overall, “Get Out” is a fine horror film and one of the sharpest social critiques to hit the silver screen in quite some time. It isn’t perfect, as Peele’s comedic background forces to him to add some messy comic relief scenes that detract from the pacing and feel of the main plot, but in the end, the main pieces are so good that it’s easy to forgive.