REVIEW: GET OUT marks the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, best known as half of the comedy duo Key & Peele. Whatever you might have expected from him, given his extensive comedy background and the recent Key & Peele comedy, KEANU, Peele subverts his audience. A straight-up horror thriller with influences ranging from Dario Argento to Robin Hardy and THE STEPFORD WIVES, with doses of humor and gore for the faithful, Peele’s debut is remarkably assured and commercial, with the Sundance audience (where it premiered as a secret screening) eating it up.
At times playing out like a modern, surreal, horror movie version of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, star Daniel Kaluuya (best known for playing Emily Blunt’s partner in SICARIO and starring in “Black Mirror’s Fifteen Million Merits”)makes for a sympathetic hero. Deeply in love with his kind, beautiful, white girlfriend, he’s game to meet her folks, despite being troubled by her not telling them beforehand that he’s black. To Williams, who knows them as non-racist, it doesn’t matter, but Kaluuya simply wants to avoid awkwardness, although that winds up being the least of his worries.
Produced by Blumhouse, GET OUT is clever in the way it mixes sly social commentary with genre. Opting for a slow build-up, Peele never goes ahead and embraces the jokey parts of the film, instead building up a growing sense of dread, helped along by the Goblin-style score. Kaluuya’s initial meeting with Williams’s folks is cute, with dad Bradley Whitford saying he “would have voted for Obama a third time”, but Catherine Keener’s psychiatrist mom seems like a red herring, as does the fact that all of their servants are docile, too friendly black people.
Without revealing too much, as like other Blumhouse films, the twists are a large part of the fun, things go awry, and Peele’s set pieces are dynamic. Scenes depicting hypnotism as especially effective, and the gore, when it kicks-in, is no joke. The tension is cut occasionally by cuts to Kaluuya’s best pal, a TSA cop played by comedian Lil Rel Howery, who’s dog-sitting his buddy’s beloved pooch, and is convinced his pal is in mortal danger. Given how intense the film gets, these comic asides are a relief.
Through it all, Kaluuya gives a star-making performance, but also surprising is how effective Allison Williams is in a part that requires her motivations to be murky – always a tricky thing. The great Stephen Root is also impressive as an art dealer suddenly stricken blind, and his climatic scene with Kaluuya is one of the best in the film.
Suffice to say, anyone who thought Peele (who also wrote the script) would have cooked up a goofy horror spoof should think again, as this is one of the more legit horror movies to come along in awhile. His style is sophisticated, and given his flair for the dramatic sequences and the sudden spurts of violence, it’s not tough to imagine Peele will soon become much in-demand behind the camera. Hopefully GET OUT finds the audience it deserves when Universal puts it out at the end of February, but it’s for sure an ace genre movie made by a sophisticated, stylish director. It’s a terrific scary night out at the movies, and a nice break from some of the more serious Sundance titles.