The best part of GET OUT (2017), the new horror movie by writer/director Jordan Peele, is that it is so unlike most other horror movies today.
It uses as its canvas a true-to-life story about the awkwardness and difficulties of a mixed race relationship which serves as a springboard to a genuine tale of horror. In the world of horror movies, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Better yet, the release of GET OUT this weekend marks the second weekend in a row we’ve had a horror movie release that has not been a strictly by-the-numbers horror flick. That’s pretty cool! Last week we had A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2017), a very creative horror movie, and now we have GET OUT.
In GET OUT, an African-American young man Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) travels with his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her parents for the first time. Even though Rose promises that her parents are not racist, Chris still has reservations about the weekend. He knows how difficult these things can be.
On the their way to Rose’s parents’ home, there is an accident as they hit a deer, which marks the second straight horror movie with a plot point of the main characters hitting a deer, which also happened in A CURE FOR WELLNESS, although the accident in that movie had a bigger impact on the plot than the accident here in GET OUT. Here, it serves as a harbinger for more ominous things to come.
It also sets up a scene where the white police officer who helps them after the accident asks to see Chris’ driver’s license even though he wasn’t driving, and Rose refuses, saying the officer has no business asking for Chris’ license since he wasn’t driving. This shows Rose’s fierce loyalty to her boyfriend.
Once they arrive at the house, they meet Rose’s parents, and even though it’s true that they do not appear racist, things are still awkward as Rose’s dad Dean (Bradley Whitford) tries to overcompensate for the racial differences by saying numerous unintentional off-putting things. Plus we learn that Rose’s mom Missy (Catherine Keener) is a therapist who uses hypnosis, and when they learn that Chris is a smoker, they offer to have Missy hypnotize him to cure him of his nicotine addiction. Chris declines, but later that night Missy catches him off guard and hypnotizes him without his permission.
Things continue to grow more awkward and uncomfortable. Missy’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) arrives, and his attitude towards Chris is even more bizarre than that of his parents. It’s also learned that her parents are hosting a huge party that weekend, a reunion of sorts of all their family friends, and when these guests arrive, their behavior towards Chris is just as puzzling.
And when he notices the black servants acting strangely, Chris begins to believe that something is very wrong at the Armitage household, something very wrong indeed.
I really liked GET OUT, which makes back to back weekends that I’ve enjoyed a new horror movie release. I can’t remember the last time that has happened.
Written and directed by first time director Jordan Peele, known more for his work as a comedic actor, GET OUT strikes a nice balance between drama, horror, and even some comedy. The script is excellent. The racial part works wonderfully because it’s true. Sadly, tensions between races are still remarkably high, and so the awkwardness felt between Chris and Rose’s family comes off as real, even for folks like Rose’s parents who aren’t supposed to be racist. The dialogue is spot on, especially for Chris, as he processes what is going on, at first taking everything in stride, then becoming somewhat suspicious, and eventually getting into full steam red flag mode.
And the film doesn’t skimp on the horror. It opens with an effective scene of a black man walking alone on a residential street and what happens to him when a car pulls up alongside him. The film keeps things moving as the audience, like Chris, tries to figure out if something sinister is really going on at the Armitage’s home or if it’s just paranoia.
When we finally learn what is going on, it’s a decent reveal and is a natural progression on everything that has come before it. It doesn’t come out of left field. I liked where the story goes.
I wasn’t overly nuts about the ending, as I expected things to get far more horrific for Chris than they do. Once he begins to take matters into his own hands, things go rather well for him, and I thought this was a bit too easy.
I also liked that the film didn’t overplay the race card. Sure, the story revolves around race relations, and it’s an integral part of the movie, and you can look at it from a symbolic perspective regarding the plight of the black man in America, but in terms of plot, what actually happens to Chris isn’t just about race. The film does an excellent job of not becoming preachy.
Daniel Kaluuya is solid in the lead role as Chris Washington. He’s a likeable guy, and his reactions to everything that goes on around him are authentic. I remember him in SICARIO (2015), and he was very good in that movie as well.
Likewise, Allison Williams is also excellent as Rose. She makes the character very believable. I also enjoyed Catherine Keener as Rose’s mom Missy and Bradley Whitford as her dad Dean. Keener’s been in a lot things and is a solid actor, and Whitford of course is known for his work on the TV show WEST WING (1999-2006) but he was also in the horror movie THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012).
Caleb Landry Jones makes for a rather creepy brother Jeremy, and both Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel make their marks as servants whose behavior is borderline strange.
I also enjoyed LilRel Howery who plays Chris’ buddy Rod, who provides the comic relief throughout this movie and even becomes heroic.
GET OUT is a refreshing horror movie, one that moves away from the standard horror movie tropes we so often see, and I for one was happy for it.
Books by Michael Arruda:
TIME FRAME, science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.