In theory, a horror movie may seem like a stretch for Jordan Peele but with Get Out he’s brilliantly crafted a poignant social horror. The subgenre ‘social horror / thriller’ might seem a little baffling, but if you’re familiar with Peele’s previous work, especially Key & Peele, you’ll notice similarities. The ingenious and hilarious sketches in the show Key & Peele often displayed the inherent ugliness of post-racial America, a form of social narrative he carried into crafting Get Out. Peele isn’t the first to do this—John Carpenter started laying the groundwork for this subgenre with his film They Live. Get Out has other inspirations and seems like a meeting of forces from other classics like Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Bryan Forbe’s ever-creepy adaptation of The Stepford Wives.
The premise is totally relatable— the daunting rite of passage that most have to endure: meeting the parents for the first time. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is going to spend the weekend at his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) suburban family home. Chris has a bigger concern though: he’s black and she’s white and when he confronts her on whether she’s told them yet, Rose just brushes it off—insisting that he has obviously nothing to worry about. However, once they make it to the house there is an immediate yet subtle discomfort between Chris and Rose’s family. The Armitages’ represent the kind of white liberal ‘idealists’ we come across all the time and this film excellently critiques the surreptitious racism that lurks beneath. The father (Bradley Whitford) calls Chris a condescending variation of ‘my man’ numerous times and at one point tells him, “I would have voted for Obama for a third term.” Peele points out the underlying bigotry of rich liberals who wouldn’t consider themselves racists, who feel that saying shit like this gives them a free pass. We also get immediate creepy vibes from her psychiatrist mother (Catherine Keener) who is pretty adamant on helping Chris kick his smoking habit by hypnotizing him (to which Chris appropriately replies: “nahhh, I’m good actually”). The only black people for miles around are the handyman Walter and housekeeper Georgina who seem to move in an almost demented daze. Their zombie-like behavior and over the top obedience strikes Chris as a little unsettling. Things are strange at the Armitage house and, at first, Chris attributes it to them feeling uncomfortable with their daughter’s new interracial relationship, but it slowly becomes clear that something far worse is really going on.
By this time, the film shifts from eerie suspense to full-on horror. The micro-incidents that have been building up come to an overwhelming point of sinister terror. Get Out marks a watershed moment in Peele’s career. It is a provocative thriller that shows us where true horror lies in this country and how topical it is – racism is scarier than ever.
Film review by Ida Yazdi. Find her online at @idaym.