FILM REVIEW – GET OUT. With Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, LilRel Howery. Written and directed by Jordan Peele. Rated R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references. 103 minutes.
A horror film by a first-time writer/director isn’t ordinarily the stuff of rave reviews. Indeed, these days it’s more likely to go directly to DVD and online streaming without ever making a stop at the local theater. GET OUT is something different. The feature directing debut of Jordan Peele (of the comedy team Key and Peele), it is a smart, scary–and, yes, funny–horror film that is coming along at exactly the right time.
After a creepy prologue which isn’t explained until much later in the film, we meet Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) a young black photographer who is about to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) very upper-class and very white family. Dad (Bradley Whitford) is a neurosurgeon, while Mom (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist. They greet Chris with hugs and charm, laying it on a bit too thick, like the father pointing out he’d have voted for a third term for Obama.
At first the odd things are peripheral: the black servants who seem like automatons or the psychiatrist hypnotizing Chris to stop smoking. As time goes on, Chris discovers what’s really happening, and at that point it’s anyone’s guess where this will end up. It’s to Peele’s credit that he’s able to set up certain expectations and then pull the rug out from under us.
As the young couple, Kaluuya and Williams are attractive twenty-somethings wending their way through the increasing awkwardness of this weekend visit. Veterans Whitford and Keener add some heft to the role of the parents, and their familiar faces serve to send precisely the mixed signals for which Peele is aiming. Comedian LilRel Howery is another plus as Chris’s friend Rod, a TSA agent who fancies himself a detective and is convinced that this is a plot to turn Chris into a sex slave.
As a director, Peele demonstrates a steady hand on the camera, showing us enough in the third act for the full horror to emerge, but not wallowing in guts and gore. The whole film is a delicate balancing act between what we (and Chris) don’t know, the increasingly disturbing stuff that is revealed, and the genuinely comic as when Rod tries to report his suspicions to the police. A moment late in the film sets up one ending before revealing another. Like the great Alfred Hitchcock, Peele expertly plays his audience.
So get out of your house and see “Get Out,” This is a a horror film that truly deserves to be called an original.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.