Get Out Review: When Race Leads to Horror

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Horror is a genre that the new wave of racially aware films really had yet to touch. Get Out fully succeeds in changing that, taking the template of a high-concept psychological thriller and imbedding it with the real fear of being singled out for the color of your skin. It’s a genuinely creepy, though often quite funny, horror flick that also succeeds in bringing real fears race relations gave birth to in wildly entertaining, but no less thought provoking, ways.

Scripted and directed by Jordan Peele, of Comedy Central’s widely acclaimed sketch comedy series Key & Peele, Get Out has a light, effortless touch to it. Sometimes the dialogue feels like something out of a comedy sketch, which oddly works perfectly as the horrific situations grow farther away from reality. But Peele never loses sight of the tension, which he starts building right from the opening scene, where a black man is stuffed into a trunk while walking through a suburban neighborhood. Afterward, we follow a couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams), as they travel from Brooklyn to the suburbs to meet the latter’s parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener). At first, it’s just the usual type of uncomfortable comments you’d expect from the situation. “I’d have voted for Obama three times if I could have,” Rose’s father says to Chris.

But from there, things at the house slowly start to seem more and more off. The family has a groundskeeper and a maid, both black, who sport eerie smiles and all-too-cheery demeanors. Then there’s the big gathering of all the family’s white friends, who take turns seemingly interviewing Chris. Peele keeps the camera on Kaluuya’s appropriately uncomfortable expressions. Keeping things from Chris’ perspective lends to the creepiness of it all, while also putting the audience, those who can relate and those who cannot, into his shoes. The film never shies away from instructing us how he feels about his surroundings, and Kaluuya is terrific at communicating that to the audience.

But despite these monumental successes, Get Out does have a few problems. As high as the tension can be, many of the so-called twists are pretty easy to figure out. This isn’t a film of big surprises, even if it wants to be one at times, but economic pacing keeps things moving even when the audience may be a step ahead of where Peele wants them to be.

There’s also one more spoiler-y plot point in the second half that just doesn’t work. It betrays the film’s hypnotic balance of horror and comedy, leaning too hard on the latter to brush past a plot hole that would make the climax of the film a whole lot simpler.

But still, Get Out is strong enough that it should be a must-see for all horror fans. Frankly, it could also be required viewing for just about any race relations college course. But the film’s best aspect is undoubtedly it’s tone, which allows horror, comedy, and astute cultural observations to seamlessly blend together. There are a lot of reasons to see Get Out, but regardless of them, you’ll be getting more than you bargained for. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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