Jordan Peele made his first major foray from television into feature films with his comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key in last year’s Keanu. While there were many speculations about the duo’s cinematic future, none of them included Peele going on to write and direct one of the best horror movies of the decade. With Get Out, Peele demonstrates that his skillset stretches far beyond laughs into effective, powerful filmmaking.
The premise is narratively simple, but thematically complex. Rose (Allison Williams) and Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) are a young couple headed on a weekend visit to Rose’s parents in the country to introduce Chris for the first time. Despite Rose’s insistence that her Caucasian family is nowhere near racist, Chris can’t help but feel nervous that she hasn’t told them he’s black. Things become strange and uneasy soon after their arrival, but like most horror movies, Get Out benefits most from an audience that knows nothing about its plot beforehand.
Peele’s script is revolutionary, turning what sounds like an Oscar-drama concept into a full-blown horror movie. It successfully combines pulse-pounding scares and fascinating social commentary on racism. Get Out takes a bold leap into race issues in ways that haven’t been seen on the big screen in recent years. Sometimes it’s humorous and subtle, like Rose’s father (Bradley Whitford) making sure to inform Chris within minutes of meeting him that he would have voted for Obama for a third term. In other instances, entire horrifying plot points deliver clever allegories for the twisted ways racism manifests itself in those who claim to be free of it.
Even with these messages woven into the plot, Get Out plays its hand carefully. It slowly builds dread, keeping the audience guessing about where it’s headed. This tension is complemented by the cast, all of whom give convincing, gripping performances. Kaluuya is fantastic throughout the entire film, and gives an especially effective performance during an upsetting hypnosis sequence that provides the character’s emotional groundwork. Toby Oliver provides excellent cinematography that captures beautiful, serene backdrops in a way that also creates a sense that something isn’t quite right. His brave close-ups of the actors during emotionally harrowing scenes highlight the level of detail going into their performances.
It’s no accident that Get Out is dominating the box office. It took a talented filmmaker with a complete vision to make this material work so well. He pulled it off in a way that both pleases crowds and challenges them to evaluate their thoughts and attitudes about race. As a horror fan, it’s truly invigorating when something like Get Out comes along to keep the genre fresh and on its toes. It’s original, frightening, and the best movie of the year so far.