is currently sitting on 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is almost unheard of for any movie, let alone a horror film. But then, this is not your traditional horror movie to begin with. Writer-director Jordan Peele (of the Key & Peele comedy team) isn't really going to traditional shocks and boogeymen here. Instead, he wants to make his audience uncomfortable and nervous, which he does a great job of with his slow burn style, where just about everything its hero experiences during the course of the film feels more than a little off.
We get this sense of unease right from the film's opening scene. A young black man is walking down a suburban street at night, joking with a friend over a cell phone over how he is lost, and can't find his way down the confusing and similarly-named streets. He ends the call, and continues to try to find his way, when he suddenly notices a car is following him. The man instantly knows that something is not right, and tries to change his course in order to lose the mysterious car. From there, the tension ratchets up, and the danger becomes known before we're brought into the main plot. It's a great opening, setting up Peele's main theme of racial tension, and the fact that there's something sinister going on in the seemingly quiet wealthy neighborhoods.
We then meet our heroes, a professional photographer named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) , and his girlfriend of five months, Rose (Allison Williams). They're getting ready to meet her parents in the upstate, wooded area outside of the city, where the private neighborhoods and mansions are plentiful. Rose has not told her parents yet that her new boyfriend is black, which Chris says is no big deal, but he is obviously uncomfortable with. They make the drive up to the home, and when Chris meets her father Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), they seem very nice. Maybe a bit too much so. They're all smiles, but a bit too eager to show Chris around the house, except for the basement, which had to be locked up due to a problem with "black mold". Rose's mom, a therapist who specializes in hypnosis, even seems to jump at the chance to help Chris quit smoking with her technique. Chris is polite to both of them, but can't seem to shake the feeling that something is just not quite right.
This is hammered home by the presence of two black people who live on the property, a groundskeeper named Walter (Marcus Henderson), and a housekeeper named Georgina (Betty Gabriel). Their mannerisms are programmed and robotic, and they often come across like imitations of real people. Again, Chris shrugs this off to nerves, or perhaps just not feeling comfortable in the situation and reading too much into it. But, the more time he spends around the house, the more he begins to suspect that he's in over his head, and that something is not right. When Rose's family throws a large get together for family and friends to meet Chris, everybody just seems a bit too mannered, overly friendly, and...suspicious. Chris can't shake the feeling, and neither can we. Again, Peele is making us as uncomfortable as possible, throwing his audience into one very polite yet strangely bizarre situation after another.
I will go no further in explaining the plot, other than saying I hope you can somehow avoid the trailer and ad campaign, which I feel gives away too much about what's actually going on. Get Out
expertly plays on racial tensions, throwing its hero into what is already an uncomfortable position to begin with, and then twisting it even further. There is a tremendous sense of tension and just plain weirdness that builds throughout the film, only to have everything explode into all-out horror during the third act. And yet, Peele also gets to show off his obvious skill with humor, through the addition of Chris' best friend (LilRel Howery), a comic relief TSA agent who doesn't like the idea of his best friend going to meet his girlfriend's parents, and gets even more suspicious as the film goes on. He also finds some subtle dark satire in the main plot, showing that Peele not only has a gift for mixing tension with laughs, but often using both in the same scene.
Peele shows a strong visual sense as well, creating some subtle yet creepy moments, such as the small mannerisms that Walter and Georgina display or go through in their daily work around the house, which only adds to Chris' suspicions that something is not right in the house. He even gets off some strong visuals, such as how he depicts Chris losing consciousness as if he is falling through a dark void, with the world slipping away before him. Considering that this is his first time behind the camera, he shows a remarkable amount of skill, and it makes me interested in what else he can do in other genres. He gets strong performances, has a sense of style, and shows certain ways of thinking outside of the box with his directing style. He shows a lot of intelligence here.
is never exactly scary, as it's trying to be more weird and unsettling than flat out terrifying. But, it does carry a lot of tension, and shows that Peele knows what he is doing, both with the genre and behind the camera. In a season where horror films are usually recycled or sloppy seconds of ideas that worked before, this is actually pretty exciting. Sure, it borrows some ideas from certain films, which I will not mention in order to avoid spoilers, but it still manages to be more intense and suspenseful than you might expect walking in.