After working in the entertainment biz in several capacities for close to 20 years, and best known for his comedy work with partner Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele has burst into the big time with his debut feature Get Out. And what a confident, assured debut it is too, one that is certain to see Peele set for a long filmmaking career.
Get Out is a comedy-horror-thriller that opens with a scene straight out of the slasher handbook before settling down into the story of photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), who are about to head upstate for the wekeend to meet her parents for the first time. Chris is worried that her parents may have a problem with their white daughter dating a black man, but his fears are allayed when he eventually meets the ultra-liberal parents – psychotherapist mother Missy (Catherine Keener) and neurosurgeon father Dean (Bradley Whitford), who could not be more relaxed about the relationship (Dean says he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could). But Chris is soon unsettled when he meets the family's African-American staff – groundskeeper Walter and housekeeper Georgina who seem to have come straight from the town of Stepford. And when a large family gathering takes place, things start to get very strange.
In many ways a modern update of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, Get Out is a timely, smart and wickedly satirical look at race relations in the US. It's a horror movie where the monsters are us, our friends, our relativers and our neighbours. It's a breakout starring role for the handsome Kaluuya, who is best known to British audiences for his TV work including Black Mirror, Psychoville and Skins. It's a compelling performance, no doubt aided by a clever script from peele and equally-accomplished turns from Williams (best known for the HBO series Girls) and the always reliable Whitford and Keener. Stealing every scene he's in, though, is LilRel Howery as Chris's TSA buddy Rod Williams, who's dogsitting for him while he's out of town and is the man sharp enough to realise what is going on and warns Chris, over the ophone,m to Get Out.
The film's real strength, and where the horror really lies, is in showing us life today in the US from a black perspective – and it ain't all that pretty. The satire is sharp, and the horror moments are very, very creepy (fortunately, the cliched jump-scare moments are few and far between). There are a lot of ideas at play in Get Out – there are elements of science fiction, body horror, slasher movie and paranoid thriller – and Peele juggles them with aplomb. The final act doesn't quite pay off perfectly, but for a first feature that's this good, that's entirely forgivable. It's a movie you will continue to reflect upon for days after you see it. While being very entertaining, Get Out is alarming, unsettling and revealing. Keep your eyes peeled for more work from this filmmaker, because he clearly has a lot more to say.