Racial issues are an emotionally charged subject in the world right now, but then again, they long have been. Many films explore this tension to great dramatic effect, but very few of them are horror films. Taking cues from horror classics that use repulsive subject matter to bring the thrills, debut director and screenwriter Jordan Peele taps into the dark side of race relations to induce some truly cringe-worthy moments in his creative thriller, "Get Out."
If Peele's name sounds familiar, it may be from his well received Comedy Central sketch show, "Key & Peele," or from his recent graduation to movies with his lead role in the goofy action comedy, "Keanu." With a background set so firmly in funny, Peele has his work cut out for him in creating a film with serious scares. Fortunately, he demonstrates his versatility with a script that keeps closely in touch with the chilling side of absurdity and storyline packed with creepy mystery and original twists.
At its heart, this film is about a biracial couple navigating the thinly-veiled racism of a WASPish community, which seems harmless at first and is shrugged off by the lead, (played expertly by a subtle Daniel Kaluuya.
As the film goes on, however, the veils fall away and the psychological terror ramps up until every word and gesture begins to seem impossibly sinister. "Get Out" does a great job of evoking a feeling of mounting paranoia and persecution, and relies almost entirely on extremely uncomfortable situations for its thrills, sending up the social norm of bringing a boyfriend home for the first time in a way that would be almost hilarious if it wasn't so cringe worthy.
If horror films can be classified as "psychological thrillers," perhaps this one could be called a "social thriller." The situation of introducing a new partner to a judgmental community will be relatable to many people, and provides the audience a solid invitation to speculate on what could actually go wrong in such a mundane situation. For many people, the reality can be pretty heinous, which makes "Get Out" more than just a fun horror romp. While this movie is entertainment first and promises a good time for horror fans, its brand of satire raises some pretty serious questions. Scenes like the one where Kaluuya struggles to respond to an avidly polite group of elderly white people who want him to rate the African American experience seem almost too real to dismiss as pure fiction.
If there's a flaw in this film, it's that it's hard to tell how seriously it wants to be taken. The premise itself is much scarier than the usual horror comedy fare, which frequently uses gross-out humor and over-the-top fantasy storylines to sell the laughs. With a comical character and dialog that gets so uncomfortable you have to laugh it off, Peele hasn't left comedy behind for good, but "Get Out" is an almost believable nightmare that will push you right up to the edge of your own personal cliff... liberal white guilt and all.
Dir. Jordan Peele
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX