Written by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root
Any person of color can tell you, if dating a white person, meeting their parents comes with a healthy amount of stress. Depending on where you are situated, the prospect of meeting them can range from pleasant to absolutely disastrous because of your identity. That alone sets up the tension within Get Out, but everything else this thrilling feature evolves into creates a tremendous experience from the brilliant mind of a genius.
After a few months of dating, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is heading out into the country to meet his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) parents. He heads there with some concern about how he will be viewed to which she reassures him there’s nothing to worry about. Upon their arrival, Chris notices some odd talk about him when he then begins to discover something more sinister happening under the surface.
Known mostly for his work in the comedy world with one of the best sketch shows to ever exist, Jordan Peele entered the world of horror with this film, which promised plenty of social commentary mixed in with the scares. What he released with Get Out is nothing short of an emblematic powerhouse of social discussion in a way repeat viewings have further rewarded in fully capturing the messages latent in this film. In a strict horror sense, the film brings some excellent scares and some truly horrifying imagery, but once you begin to dog deep down in its messages, it becomes far more terrifying. There is where Peele finds the right juice and creates a film that will stand the test of time with its innovation and daringness.
The beauty of this film’s rampant success comes within its screenplay, one so good the Academy got over their horror bias and rewarded him the Academy Award for which is a remarkable achievement in itself. He justifiably received plaudits for what he created in this film because the originality of the screenplay meets the ingenuity of the dialogue interspersed within the scares and much of it has to do with racial dynamics. As alluded to earlier in the review, the tension Chris feels heading to visit Rose’s parents is one felt by many people of color who happen to be dating white folks. It’s really a roll of the dice of what kind of parents you’ll find and I’ve certainly experienced quite the spectrum. However, Peele presents a family dynamic where they are almost aggressively accepting in their approach to Chris, almost tipping the balance the other way around from being outright racist. Nothing captures it more than the statement by Rose’s father “I would’ve voted for Obama a third time if I could.” Those are the types of statements we all know too well. Would it be said if Chris was not Black? You know for sure it would not, which initially depicts the Armitage family as a specific type of liberal, but everything only gets worse.
Through everything the Armitages say to Chris or about him comes a double meaning resembling speak about race. Some are more on the nose than others, but they all hit differently, especially on a rewatch. From the black mold in the basement to the disgust with which Rose’s father speaks about deer. Sure, I’m not the biggest fan of deer but the particular derision in his voice and vocabulary matches what many racists say about their approach to Black people in this nation. They are “taking over” or good on Rose for killing one, even if accidentally. It’s all unsettling, but when the gathering of other individuals arrive, you hear the slew of microaggressions thrown at Chris, which we’ve all heard before from other well-meaning people. The cringe Chris feels in those moments has been felt by me and others, where you’re stunned by the ludicrous statement, said but you must be polite in order to not look like you’re triggered or stir things up only reaffirming their belief in your people. Chills raced down my spine in those moments, but when getting the further context of what occurs later down the line in the film, all of the statements get far more ghastly. It works so well because often those microaggressions said outside of the context of this film come with those double meanings where the supposed intent came off as innocent but the impact became harmful. Similarly, with Chris’s conversations, the intention arrives as naive but the underlying message is violent. Truly a masterstroke of writing that rewards repeat viewings to catch all of the tells.
Not only through the writing, but Peele also uses visual cues to illustrate his double meanings and with the tension, he creates on screen he allows the cringe, awkwardness, and straight-up horror to truly leave a lasting mark on the viewer. At times you just need time to figure out exactly what in the world is going on only for the terror to continually build. Whether it be the seemingly innocuous conversations with the Armitage family members or with the housekeeper and groundskeeper. Chris never fully feels settled in this place nor does Peele let the audience feel comfortable either, keeping our emotions heightened to truly lay down the hammer when the proverbial excrement hits the fan.
Much love and praise for the success of this film also needs to go to Daniel Kaluuya for his fantastic performance in this feature. Embodying a healthy skepticism, naivete, and mental fortitude, Kaluuya captures all of the emotions the audience feels through this motion picture. He does it so effortlessly within the parameters of the story but his reactions at times reach out to the audience, almost asking us if we believe the nonsense going on around him. He goes through hell and back and really puts his name out there as a wondrous talent who will continue to thrill us with his presence.
Much more of the message can be parsed through with Get Out, which would involve spoilers, but the way it all comes together, in the end, shows the perfect combination of horror and social commentary. All the way to the final scene where a specific dread arises not necessarily from the previous horrors that truly leaves a discernible mark on the audience. It just works so well and I am angry Jordan Peele can make such an impactful and effective work as his directorial debut. An absolutely ridiculous talent who I will follow to the ends of the Earth with whatever storytelling he wants to take on in the future. An absolute gem.