In Get Out, a young black man travels to rural Blue State America to meet his white college girlfriend’s family, and soon discovers that something is very, very wrong.
Well, besides the vague air of bigotry and offhand remarks.
No, the few black people he meets there, including a pair of household servants, are… off. They’re not like the African Americans he knows, but an idealized white man’s version of black existence, a Gone with the Wind era relic. Unnaturally so.
It’s an irresistible premise: a Stepford Wives or Invasion of Body Snatchers with a racial spin, and all the social commentary that inherently comes along with that.
In fact, writer & debut director Jordan Peele doesn’t even have to exaggerate the circumstances all that much: the tension and anxiety of this situation feels all-too-real. This didn’t have to be a horror movie to be scary, and might have even been more unnerving if it weren’t.
The first act of Get Out, which actually goes on for more than half of the film, drops photographer protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) in white-bred county as girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) brings him home to meet the family, which includes mom (Catherine Keener), pop (Bradley Whitford), and brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones)
It also just happens to be the weekend of the big family get-together, which brings dozens of more white people to the wooded estate, including a blind gallery owner played by Stephen Root. And a single black guest (Lakeith Stanfield) who seems to be doing an unironic impersonation of a distinguished white gentleman and freaks out when Chris snaps a photo.
Couple that with the only other black people in the vicinity – oddball and overly polite groundskeeper (Marcus Henderson) and impenetrable housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel), and it’s clear that something is very wrong here.
As Peele drops hints of just what that might be over the first hour or so of the film, amplifying the tension that already exists in this scenario, Get Out works quite wonderfully.
But during the film’s final third, when the cards come out on the table and things come to a head, the film loses steam.
That’s because the movie stops being a social satire, and becomes a full-throttle horror movie. And while the horror elements are a sufficient conclusion to this storyline, they’re much weaker in comparison, less unsettling than the real-world commentary the movie makes during its first half.
For much of that time, the protagonist disappears from the film, while we get a secondary plot thread involving his friend, a character played by LilRel Howery. He’s Get Out’s comic relief version of Scatman Crothers in The Shining, and while his scenes are entertaining in their own right, they disrupt the flow of the film as a whole.
That’s partially because Kaluuya is excellent here in the lead, and really carries the film; Get Out tends to drag whenever he’s not around.
Keener and Whitford are also a lot of fun as the parents, who try too hard to sidle up to Chris while keeping their distance; Landry Jones, is over-the-top as a cut-rate psycho.
Ultimately, Get Out works a lot better as a satire than as a horror film, but it makes one thing abundantly clear: debut director Jordan Peele, half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, has a bright future as a filmmaker ahead of him.