The satirical thesis of writer/director Jordan Peele’s Get Out is so deliciously literal, Jonathan Swift modestly proposes that his recipe has been bitten. The very real, authentically frightening, practice of white Americans brutally harvesting the culture and bodies of black people didn’t require much alteration to produce a horror film. But Peele didn’t stop at a clever conceit, instead composing an exceptionally acted, elegantly crafted thriller sure to piss off the real-life dipshit villains who inspired the only-marginally-worse fictional monsters in the movie.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a handsome black photographer, is off on a weekend trip to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). His friend, Rod (LilRel Howery), tells him that this is a very, very bad idea. Rod is very, very right. Rose’s mom, Missy (Catherine Keener); dad, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) initially demonstrate the kind of half-assed racial ignorance and muted bigotry that black Americans have been told to find charming. Swallowing frustration with nearly every breath, Chris patiently diffuses situation after situation because he loves Rose. That is, until he notices that every other black person he meets has gone full-Stepford.
The housekeepers, Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel), act fairly openly bonkers. Logan (Keith Stanfield), a guest at a party Rose’s parents throw, sets off alarm bells when he reacts to Chris’s attempted fist bump with a downright Trumpian handshake. When Chris calls Rod to discuss these events, and the minor matter of Missy hypnotizing him the night previous without his permission, Rod offers a minor variation on the film’s title, reiterating that nothing good is going to come of this.
Even setting aside the important, and too-rarely-discussed, thematic issues of racial appropriation and callous mistreatment of black lives, Get Out is just a goddamn good scary movie. Peele goes beyond simplistic jump scares—although there are a few nice ones—and coaxes sheer terror from something as innocuous as the sound of a spoon circling the rim of a teacup. What’s remarkable is the level of sophistication from such an inexperienced filmmaker. For example, the ratcheting tension in the final sequence hinges not only on surface-level elements of horror movie survival but expectations about police brutality, an influence that is used to spectacular effect without ever explicitly stating anything about it.
There are big laughs in Get Out too; the fear in mentioning that is inviting anyone to group Peele’s seriously substantive film with his equally brilliant work as a comedian. Rod is spectacular comic relief, but he also serves as an effective audience surrogate, Googling what we’d Google and ranting about what we’d rant about in such a situation. From Howery’s hilarity to Gabriel’s stunning incantation of the word “no” to Kaluuya’s nuanced grief at childhood tragedy, Get Out is ensemble acting at its finest in a genre not known for it. Destined for a spot on my Best of 2017 list and already cemented among my favorite horror movies of all-time, Get Out is fittingly and deservedly the first great movie released in the Trump era.
Grade = A+